Wildfire devastates Los Alerces National Park in Argentina

January 30, 2024

Firefighters struggle to contain blaze in Patagonia

More than a hundred firefighters are have been engaged in a strenuous battle against a forest fire in the Chubut province of southern Argentina.

The fire, which started on Thursday, is ravaging Los Alerces National Park, a Unesco World Heritage site renowned for its ancient alerce trees.

The situation is exacerbated by limited visibility due to smoke, complicating the efforts of aerial firefighters.

Chubut Governor Ignacio Torres has attributed the cause of the fire to arson, noting that over 1,000 hectares have been consumed by the flames.

He expressed his concerns, stating: “The limited visibility caused by the smoke is hindering the work of aerial firefighters.”

Heatwave and arson suspected in the wildfire

The region is currently grappling with an unusual heatwave, with temperatures soaring to 40°C (104°F) in the port city of San Antonio Oeste, which has contributed to the rapid spread of the fire.

Mario Cárdenas, the fire chief at Los Alerces, reported that the fire has extended beyond the park’s boundaries, affecting neighboring areas.

He described the fire as “out of control” and highlighted the expectation of reinforcements to support the existing firefighting team.

Threat to ancient trees and biodiversity

Los Alerces National Park, spanning nearly 260,000 hectares, is vital for the conservation of the Patagonian Forest and is home to some of the world’s oldest trees.

These trees, including the famous “grandfather” alerce estimated to be 2,600 years old, can reach heights of over 45 meters (150 feet).

Park Director Danilo Hernández Otaño revealed that the fire originated from two separate but proximate locations.

He firmly stated: “It had been clearly intentionally laid and had not been an accident.”

Governor Torres underscored the gravity of the situation, affirming: “Those responsible for starting the fire will have to answer to the courts.”

FSJA Comment

The devastating wildfire at Los Alerces National Park in Argentina underscores the fragility of our natural heritage sites.

The park’s significance in biodiversity conservation, particularly its ancient alerce trees, cannot be overstated.

The suspected arson and subsequent damage to such a critical ecosystem highlight the need for stringent protective measures and increased awareness of the consequences of such actions.

This event serves as a reminder of the challenges facing conservation efforts globally and the necessity of collective responsibility in safeguarding our natural environments.

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