Forest fires scorch thousands of acres in Costa Rica and Nicaragua

March 6, 2009

Fires have burned some 8,000 hectares (19,753 acres) of forest and pastures in Costa Rica this year, while a total of 3,246 hectares (8,015 acres), including 2,571 hectares (6,348 acres) of a nature reserve, were destroyed last week by wildfires in Nicaragua.

Nicaraguan emergency services officials said on Saturday 1,559 hectares (3,849 acres) of forest land consumed by fire were in the Las Pilas-El Hoyo nature reserve northwest of Managua, but that those fires have now been brought under control. No injuries in the blazes have been reported, said authorities.

Another 1,012 hectares (2,499 acres) laid waste by the flames belonged to the Cosiguina reserve, located on the volcano of the same name, in the western province of Chinandega.

The blaze in the protected areas that normally shelter a rich biodiversity of flora and fauna began four days ago as a result the carelessness of local residents and were spread by strong winds, the authorities said.

The National Forestry Institute (INAFOR) announced that it will open investigations to find those responsible for the fires.

These are the biggest forest fires in Nicaragua so far in this year´s dry season.

In Costa Rica, the biggest of the blazes is still burning in the southern part of the country near its border with Panama, according to the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry. The fire has consumed 1,000 hectares (2,469 acres) of forest and pastures, and is threatening La Amistad International Park, which is shared by the two countries.

The fire near the park is no longer as intense as it was, but the 55 firefighters assigned to the area have not been able to bring the blaze under control, National Fire Management Program chief Luis Diego Roman told the press.

The fire is moving close to two rivers that provide drinking water for about 20,000 people, Roman said.

The National Emergency Commission emergency management office declared an alert for southern Costa Rica due to the large number of fires that have broken out in the region.

A total of 26 forest fires were reported across Costa Rica in January and February.

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