After a gruelling five-month standoff against wildfires, the Gobernación region finally breathes easy. The Secretary of Sustainable Development and Environment from the Gobernación, Pablo Sauto, confirmed the cessation of forest fires. The region, which had been in the grip of relentless fires, has now been fire-free for six consecutive days.
Firefighters: The Unsung Heroes
As the smoky haze clears, the firefighters from Gobernación, having returned to their base for medical attention, stand ready for any future emergencies. These brave men and women, over 4,000 in number, have been meticulously trained and equipped to respond to forest emergencies. They, along with a total of 5,271 individuals, including technicians and community members, have valiantly addressed 485 emergencies, out of which 127 were forest fires.
The Impact on Wildlife
The Biodiversity Conservation Program, in 2023 alone, conducted seven sweeps to rescue and provide veterinary care to wildlife affected by the fires. Their discovery of fifty dead animals paints a grim picture, but the true impact on wildlife is difficult to quantify. The program continues to strive towards coordinating joint actions with the director of Kaa Iya Park, providing veterinary care and rehydration to affected wildlife. The public has been urged to show empathy towards these innocent victims of the fires and to refrain from mistreatment, keeping them as pets, selling, or hunting them.
Addressing the Root Cause
It is worth noting that 88% of the hectares affected by the fires were due to irregular settlements in protected areas. This statistic underscores the importance of sustainable practices and respect for designated protected regions. The silver lining, however, is that the area affected in 2023 (440,354 hectares) is considerably less than the same time in 2022 (1.1 million hectares), indicating that efforts to combat and prevent such disasters are making an impact.
Looking ahead, the forest fire prevention agency SOPFEU, after witnessing a historic forest fire season in 2023 where 4.5 million hectares of forest, including 1.1 million in habitable areas, were scorched, is proactively recruiting firefighters for the 2024 season. As the world grapples with an increasing number of such environmental crises, it is clear that our collective efforts towards prevention, preparedness, and empathy towards wildlife are more crucial than ever.