Firefighters battled several new fires in the Cajas Mountains and in rural areas south of Cuenca over the weekend. Sporadic rain showers on Saturday and Sunday put out some fires, a spokesman for the Cuenca volunteer fire department said, but weren’t enough to affect others.
A fire in San Pedro de Yumate, just off the Cuenca-Guayaquil highway, burned more than 70 hectares Saturday and reignited on Sunday morning. Other fires, in less accessible areas near Molleturo, were still burning early Monday. At times, smoke from the fires reduced visibility on the highway and transportation officials say they will order road closures if necessary.
Patricio Lucero, Cuenca fire chief, said he rotating teams of fire firghters in and out of the Cajas but says his department is also battling fires in areas south of the city. “The drought has created high risks in several sectors and we must be prepared to fight fires wherever the happen,” he said.
Lucero said recent showers have helped but that some areas have received no rainfall at all. He added that most of the fires are man-made but some, in remote areas, may have been the result of lightning strikes.
Weather forecasters at ETAPA, Cuenca’s utility company, say they expect more showers this week, with rain chances reaching 80% on Tuesday, then dropping for the rest of the week.
ETAPA says the rains have delayed water rationing in rural parishes, which had been planned for this week.