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Patagonia is on Fire

A wildfire has already devastated more than 3,000 hectares in the Argentinian  Patagonia. It started in Los Alerces National Park two weeks ago and is spreading, consuming the native forest as dozens of firefighters and volunteers try to halt the flames.


 


Authorities have stated that the start of the fire was “clearly intentional”, a practice that repeats every season in these territories. This year, however, the political context is different; while the Argentinian Congress debates the approval of a bill that, among hundreds of other measures, modifies the country’s environmental legislation.



The superintendent of Los Alerces National Park, Danilo Hernandez Otaño, has stated that the meteorological conditions are unfavourable and the fire risk is extreme. He also pointed out the imminent danger, because the fire continues to spread over protected areas. and that “no person alive today on this planet will see this forest in the state that it was”. 



For several years, these forests have been threatened by fires every summer season. In the case of the Patagonian region, forest fires have ravaged over 25 thousand hectares in just 4 years. Argentinian legislation includes various laws that protect these areas, which have been executed in the last 20 years thanks to the efforts of environmental organizations. However, a law with more than 600 articles presented by the national government of President Javier Milei, modifies part of the country’s environmental legislation. 


 


The ruling party's legislative agenda suggests altering protections for native forests. They want to change both the red zone, which is an area of very high conservation value that must remain as forests forever, and the yellow zone, which has moderate conservation value, to permit deforestation for future real estate investments.


 


According to the report from the Unified Command of Los Alerces National Park and the provincial fire management service of Chubut, as of Saturday at 9:00 PM, the fire had already consumed 3,147 hectares of forest. 



While the wildfire in Los Alerces National Park remains active and out of control, behaving particularly aggressively, in the canyons due to weather conditions, as it has advanced towards the city of Esquel in the last few hours, over 300 brigade members are working in precarious and highly risky conditions both on the ground dedicated to firefighting and crew logistics, and logical support. The meteorological conditions on Monday were complicating the firefighting efforts, making the situation quite adverse. As a preventive measure, authorities evacuated residents from the nearby areas.


 


“The brigade members are advancing as much as possible, deploying all the equipment and aerial resources in case it gets more complicated later with the wind”, stated Mario Cardenas, the head of the Fires, Communications, and Emergencies (ICE) department in the protected area.


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