Smoke from wild fires blankets south side of Cuenca; low river flow is a problem

Nov 21, 2016 | 1 comment

Local fire fighters spent a busy weekend controlling wildfires in rural areas close to Cuenca. For several hours Sunday afternoon, smoke covered several neighborhoods in the southern part of the city.

Fire fighters in the Cajas Mountains.

Fire fighters in the Cajas Mountains.

The Cuenca fire department responded to fires in Barabón, near Cajas National Park, Baños, Carmen de Guzho, Corazón de Jesús, and Turi, and said several fires in inaccessible areas continue to burn. Most of the fires have been small, under three hectares, but several have exceeded 10 hectares.

In a statement, the fire department said fires would continue to pose threats until seasonal rains return in December. “This is a situation we face every year, but this year is worse since we have received less rain,” the statement said. “The intense sunshine, low humidity and dry underbrush have created a dangerous situation and we ask citizens to be quick to report any fires that they see.”

The department said that reduced flow in rivers and streams is making it more difficult to refill water tankers. It also said that some year-round springs have gone dry, eliminating other water sources needed for combating fires.

The Cuenca utility authority, ETAPA, is advising residents to stay indoors as much as possible if smoke is present in their neighborhoods. It also advises residents to use umbrellas when they are outdoors due to intense sunshine and high UV levels.

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