The El Niño phenomenon has triggered a series of wildfires in Santander, consuming over 600 hectares of vegetation and posing risks to both community well-being and property.
Since November 3, 2023, 30 wildfires have been recorded in 11 municipalities of Santander.
The National Risk Management System (SNGRD) is actively controlling and extinguishing a forest fire in the Berlín páramo, Tona municipality, in the Ucatá area, employing a bambi bucket-equipped aircraft for water drops.
The National Unit for Disaster Risk Management (UNGRD) reports two major and complex fires in the department have been controlled due to coordinated responses from the SNGRD.
Sneyder Pinilla Álvarez, the Deputy Director for Disaster Management of UNGRD, acknowledged the collaborative efforts and emphasized the joint work in controlling the situation: “The balance of operations and national support is as follows: there have been 120 aerial discharges totaling 240,000 gallons of water.
“On the ground, the involvement and commitment of municipal and departmental disaster risk management councils (CMGRD and CDGRD), volunteer fire departments, the Colombian Civil Defense, and the National Army, have worked in an articulated and coordinated manner to face the emergency.”
The recently controlled fires include the Piedecuesta sector Ruitoque, affecting 260 hectares across Floridablanca and Piedecuesta, and the Mogotes vereda Santa Bárbara, consuming 150 hectares.
These fires, starting on January 19 and 20, respectively, were controlled within 48 hours.
The UNGRD has provided comprehensive support to local and regional authorities for fire control and extinguishing through the National Response Protocol, ground and air support, activation of a National Army Brigade, air support from the Colombian Aerospace Force (FAC), and the National Police (PONAL), continuous monitoring through the Information and Telematics Center (CITEL), and coordination from the National Crisis Room.
The situation in Santander highlights the complexities of managing wildfires, especially under the influence of climatic phenomena like El Niño.
The rapid and effective response of various agencies, including UNGRD, SNGRD, local fire departments, and the military, showcases the importance of coordinated disaster management efforts.
The use of technology, such as bambi bucket-equipped aircraft, and the rapid containment of significant fires within 48 hours, demonstrate the capability and readiness of Colombia to address such natural disasters.
Continuous efforts in monitoring, control, and extinguishing, coupled with community engagement in prevention and self-care, remain critical in managing the ongoing wildfire crisis in Santander and across the country.
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