Although firefighters say they are blocking its advance, a 300 hectare fire in the Sun Sun Yanasacha forest, just outside the Cajas National Park, continued to burn Wednesday morning.
Smoke was visible from Cuenca during the day on Tuesday and was the orange glow of flames Tuesday night.
The Sun Sun Yanasacha area is a protected buffer area to the Cajas park and was designated part of the Cajas Biosphere area by UNESCO earlier this year. The area is also an important part of the Cuenca watershed and a well known birdwatching area.
Firefighters with the help of army troops were hindered by thick smoke and steep terrain, authorities said. Hillsides in the Sun Sun forest often run at 70% and 80% degree angles. A spokesman for an army fire control unit said that it could be two to three days before the fire is completely contained due to conditions.
Tanker helicopters dropped load after load of water on the fire Monday and Tuesday but much of the water vaporized above the intense flames, according to Fernando Figueroa, regional director of the ECU 911 emergency service. Figueroa said that almost 50,000 liters were dropped Tuesday. He declined to declare an official state of emergency since there is no human population in the area.
Although the cause of the fire is officially unknown, firefighters believe it ignited when a camp fire by local fisherman grew out of control.
Roberto Vázconez, commander of the Third Army Tarqui Division, said that he is requesting more soldiers to help fight the blaze.
Photo caption: A burned mountain top in the Sun Sun Yanasacha forest.