Wildfires have consumed as much as 800 hectares in the Cajas Mountains, west of Cuenca, while residents were ordered to evacuate several neighborhoods near out-of-control fires in Quito.
As of Tuesday night, the national risk management office said that dozens of fires in Ecuador’s sierra region remain un-contained. The entire region has seen little rain since June and winds as high as 50 kilometers per hour have made firefighting dangerous.
Due to rough terrain, more than 100 firefighters are having difficulty fighting blazes in the Cajas mountains. The biggest fire, near Migüir on the western edge of Cajas National Park, is believed to have consumed more than 500 hectares. Fire authorities say that workers are having to hike for as long as an hour to reach the fire line.
Paul Vintimilla, administrator for protected areas in the Cajas, says the fire remains out of control and is spreading. “This is the largest fire I have seen in the park and it is very hard to fight,” he said.
Much of Quito was shrouded in smoke on Tuesday as fires burned close to populated areas. In the afternoon, more than 150 residents were evacuated from the La Floresta and Auqui parishes. Police said the evacuations were ordered primarily as a precaution against smoke inhalation following the hospitalization of several area residents.
Two to three thousands of hectares have burned near Quito, and fires continue to burn close to neighborhoods. The fire department said that 19 firefighters suffered injuries on Monday and Tuesday.
Quito Mayor Maricio Rodas said some of the fires were set by arsonists, adding that police have taken several suspects into custody. Rodas also said that police and firefighters in Quito have been spread to “the breaking point” due to the fire emergency and the dangers of eruption at the Cotopaxi volcano. “We are doing all we can to protect the community and have called in all available personnel.”