About 80 % of the surface of the Mitar Nakichenovich National Park, the lungs of the cities Acarigua and Araure in Portuguesa, were consumed by a voracious fire registered on Tuesday afternoon.
The fire was the fifth to take place at the park this year alone and by far the biggest, with almost 80% of the park burning up. Vast, devastating forest fires are now an everyday occurrence in once evergreen Venezuela, now hit with a humanitarian crisis that has brought, among other indignities, water-service failures in 80% of the country.
And it only took three hours for the park to been consumed by flames. Even after hard work by the fire department, some 400 hectares of this natural space, which has been declared an area under special protection (Abrae), was lost to the fire.
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Species such as eucalyptus and pine, abundant in the Mitar were the most affected. The local government tried to douse the flames with two water trucks and 42 firemen.
Strong winds were mention as the reason for the fast advance of the fire, commander of the Portuguesa Fire Department, Efrain Petaquero, said.
Miguel López, a member of the Portuguesa Ecological Front, said that every year, in times of drought, the Mitar turns into flames. He pointed out that of the 615 hectares that make up the Abrae, 400 burned and with them several species of local fauna.
“The Mitar Nakichenovich has been decreed an area under special protection, because it encompasses the springs of La Quebrada (The Creek) de Araure and, despite its importance, the authorities are doing nothing to maintain it,” explained López.
It is easier to prevent fires than to put them out, said the expert. He indicated that the responsibility also lies with ecologic organizations and organized communities.
“These fires can be avoided with the maintenance of firewalls; they help prevent the fire from spreading as it did this Tuesday,” said Lopez.