In late March and early April 2023, several fires occurred in different parts of our restoration sites in Yucatan, Mexico (the Las Américas 7a, 7.2, 7.1 and Las Américas 6). In total, 0,57 per cent of our restoration-areas have been affected.
Fortunately, the fires have been completely extinguished and our team and firefighters are working hard to rule out the possibility of the fires reigniting.
The fires were part of a large series of forest fires in the area, namely in the municipalities of Champotón, Escárcega and Calakmul (see this report in the Mexican daily Tribuna, mentioning Plant-for-the-Planet’s assistance in the firefighting efforts).
Fire 1: Las Americas 7.2
On March 29, a fire broke out on 5.7 hectares. The fire began on a neighboring property of Las Américas 7.2. Important to know: Among some people in the region it is customary to clean their houses by lighting fires. However, most likely, the neighbor here has not taken adequate safety precautions (eg, sufficient firebreak). This, combined with strong winds, led to the fire spreading to our property.
Fire 2: Las Americas 7a
Another fire broke out the same day on 23.49 hectares at Las Américas 7a. The cause of the fire is still unclear. One of our firebreaks was able to successfully contain the fire and prevent further damage. No planted trees were affected since Plant-for-the-Planet has not yet planted in the affected area.
Fire 3: Las Americas 7a
The largest fire, so far, broke out on March 30 at Las Americas 7a at restoration sites from 2021 and 2022. Our fire fighting team could quickly extinguish the fire. Nevertheless, 60.68 hectares have been affected.
Fire 4: Las Américas 6
A forest fire that broke out on April 3 in the neighboring Xbonil area spread to the Las Américas 6 restoration sites. A total of 7 hectares were affected by the fire.
In collaboration with the Comisión Nacional Forestal (CONAFOR), firebreaks were established and mitigation and firefighting measures were implemented. No trees planted by us were affected. The fire was discovered during a control visit.
Fire 5: Las Américas 7.1
On April 11, a fire broke out in the western part of Las Américas 7.1, occupying 45.22 hectares. The fire was reported by the owner of a property adjacent to Americas 7.1. The cause has not yet been determined. The Comisión Nacional Forestal (CONAFOR) was immediately notified, but due to the conditions of the fire, was not able to conduct containment and extinguishment efforts until early the next day, when it was brought under control. The area includes the 2021 and 2022 restoration sites.
Plant-for-the-Planet will continue to work closely with local authorities to ensure that the forest and surrounding areas are protected.
The climate crisis is fueling forest fires like this. We are currently in the middle of the dry season (January – June) on the Yucatán Peninsula, during which fires occur regularly.
This year we have been hit extremely hard. But despite the severe setbacks on Las Américas 7 and 6, the work continues: Especially now, we need intact forest ecosystems that are resilient to the impacts of the climate crisis – like forest fires or floods. And these forest ecosystems are what Plant-for-the-Planet, together with other organizations, is restoring and protecting. Forests are our allies against the climate crisis.
Plant-for-the-Planet is also in the process of developing the FireAlert App to help itself and other organizations in the event of forest fires. This can report fires in real time with a user-friendly interface. The app uses FIRMS (Fire Information for Resource Management System) technology developed by NASA. This means that measures against fires can be taken even faster in the future. “The FireAlert App will allow us to monitor even more constantly and thus respond more quickly to existing fires and areas that could pose a danger”, says Ivett Reynoso, Restoration Coordinator for Plant-for-the-Planet and Ecologist.
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