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Firefighters battle forest blazes in Argentina

With temperatures climbing upwards, firefighters were deployed ahead of the weekend to forest fires in nine of Argentina’s 23 provinces.

Firefighters battle forest blazes in Argentina
Flames from a huge forest fire are seen from Route 40, some 12 km from Paraje Villegas and 60 km south of Bariloche, Rio Negro Province, Argentina, on January 13, 2022 - Copyright AFP -
Flames from a huge forest fire are seen from Route 40, some 12 km from Paraje Villegas and 60 km south of Bariloche, Rio Negro Province, Argentina, on January 13, 2022 - Copyright AFP -

With temperatures climbing upwards, firefighters were deployed ahead of the weekend to forest fires in nine of Argentina’s 23 provinces, including one blaze that has been active for more than a month.

Nearly 100 firefighters and support staff, reinforced by planes and helicopters, were fighting the largest of the fires in the Nahuel Huapi National Park, the fire management service (SNMF) said.

The park is located near the tourist city of Bariloche, about 1,500 kilometers (950 miles) southwest of Buenos Aires.

“This is one of the most serious fires we have had in the region,” SNMF director of operations Lorena Ojeda told AFP.

She spoke at the scene of the blaze, which was sparked by a lightning strike on December 6.

Temperatures range from 35 to 40 degrees Celsius (95-105 degrees Fahrenheit) but have spiked even higher.

The heat and wind “contribute to the continued spread of the fire,” with weather forecasts showing there “may not be enough precipitation” to stop it, Ojeda said.

About 5,900 hectares of native Andean forest have been affected.

There have been no injuries or evacuations reported in the area, due to its low population density.

“The fire is 50 kilometers from Bariloche, but there is no risk of evacuation for the moment,” one firefighter told AFP.

Fires in the forested areas of southern and central Argentina are an endemic occurrence during the summer. But they aren’t as common in coastal areas, where several were reported last summer.

Recent years “is very unfavorable, with two consecutive years of drought (and) a persistent heat wave,” deputy environment minister Sergio Federovisky said on Argentine public radio.

According to the SNMF, about 330,000 hectares were destroyed by forest fires in 2021 compared to 1.1 million hectares in 2020.

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