A severe forest fire in Costa Rica’s southeastern region has spread to Chirripó National Park, officials from Costa Rica’s National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) said.
The fire started Tuesday in a Bribrí indigenous reserve in Talamanca near the Caribbean coast and quickly spread, burning between 10-15 hectares of land as of Thursday. Firefighters are now battling 12 blazes in the Alto Chirripó Indigenous Reserve and on two hectares of the national park.
The remote area is located at least a day’s drive from the nearest SINAC outpost, and two helicopters have been deployed to identify and fight new fires. Difficult terrain and unfamiliarity with the area have presented challenges for firefighters, and strong winds are spreading the fire quickly.
“It is growing more difficult in terms of access,” Ronald Chan, the regional director for the Pacific La Amistad Conservation Area, told The Tico Times. “We have personnel that has reached the area and have hired a private company to help fight the fire.”
The first national firefighting brigades arrived Friday morning to set up a base of operations. At least 50 firefighters are part of the first wave, which will focus efforts on the fires within the national park.
Chan said that SINAC has submitted a request to the National Emergency Commission to declare the fire a level 3, which would enable the government to allocate more resources to the area. Level 3 is the second most severe forest fire ranking. When a fire is declared a level 4, the government is required to solicit international emergency assistance.
While a cause has not officially been determined, Chan and other SINAC officials suspect the fire started with an illegal logging operation in Talamanca. The use of slash-and-burn techniques in the area also is often associated with illegal marijuana cultivation.
“Everything right now is speculation, but oftentimes [the logging operations] start with that intention.”