It’s the wildfire season in Ecuador’s sierra region and Cuenca municipal firefighters joined rural fire departments on Monday in battling more than three dozen blazes, some of them still out of control. Military personnel have been called to help with several of the fires.
Fires continue to burn in the Yunguilla Valley, near Santa Isabel, in the Cajas mountains as well in several areas south of Cuenca.
Police have made three arrests for arson but say that other deliberately set fires were the result of agricultural land clearing that got out of control.
Firefighters say weather conditions are making their work more difficult as lack of rain, low humidity and high winds have been the norm for more than a week. Cuenca has seen no appreciable rainfall in almost two months and humidity readings dipped into the teens on Monday afternoon.
The fires situation is much worse near Quito, where thousands of hectares have burned, claiming the lives of five firemen and injuring scores of others. On Monday, heavy smoke covered much of the city and the health department recommended that those with respiratory conditions stay inside.
City officials say the fires, plus the eruptive conditions at the Cotopaxi volcano, are requiring the time of almost all of the city’s emergency personnel.
Meteorologists expect dry, windy conditions in the sierra to continue for several more days. They say that the conditions could be, in part, the affect of an approaching El Niño.