Fire out! Our rangers and four young man from the neighborhood worked from early in the morning until one o’clock in the afternoon to finally put an end to the burning.
We had good luck, because winds have weakened today.
The whole family went to Los Cascabeles at nine in the morning and we took a representative of the delegation of the forest ministry with us, so they can find the way the next time and in order to review the extension and the status of the fires.
I managed to take him to the highest point of the finca, and we saw, that the fires ultimately have been contained by the recently built firebreak at one third from the east limit of the finca. We could not take the whole tour around the burnt down area because of time constraints, but I took some pictures, showing that the whole area around has been affected.
This is the fourth day we are fighting against the fire at Los Cascabeles. Yesterday things have calmed down a little bit, our rangers hired four boys from the neighborhood to make a sweep over the whole area in order to find the pockets of ember and eradicate them. They managed to close down all spots except one.
In the morning, the strong winds ignited the spot again. Our rangers started to control the fire from the morning. Since we had no driver until ten in the morning, Nadia could go out to Los Cascabeles, taking with her three volunteer fire fighters. The kids stayed at home today.
Again, it seems that there were somebody laying fires. We have already filed charges, but changes are low to find out who it was.
It was a very hot day, we had at least 37°C (98.6F) and Nadia shot dramatic pictures and videos of the man and women fighting the fire.
The first picture show the fire fight while ascending the hill, the two before the last one are on top of the hill at the southern corner and the last one is on descend of the mountain.
The fight will continue tomorrow and I will finally be able to go out to Los Cascabeles by myself.
It is clear to me, that in the future we will need to invest into prevention and raising of conscience, besides defensive means and reactive fire fighting. The current estimate of lost woodland is 90 acres on Los Cascabeles and our east side neighbours finca La Fortuna. The down wind (west side) finca had about 140 acres burned down – they did not bother to move out.
Pauls’ eyes were shining with happiness when I explained to him, that he would spend the whole afternoon with me at the University. A long time he has wanted to go with his dad to work. It was the perfect afternoon for him. Later we had dinner together and finally I also bedded him. “Where are mom and Jakob?” he asked at the dinner, “Mom will come home late today”. I told him.
Shortly before ten in the morning, Nadia received a call from Los Cascabeles. There were fire breakouts at least at three different spots on the mountain, the wind today was very strong and pushed the fire along very fast. Our two Rangers could not take this alone.
Without success, Nadia contacted the forest ministry and the municipal administration. Until calling the Sutiava volunteer fire brigade she had success and fortunately our seasoned driver was not busy today. Nadia collected hastily water,and supplies and they drove to the finca. She had to take three year old Jakob with her, because the baby sitter was not available today. We agreed by phone, that I would pick up Paul from school and take care of him in the afternoon.
Still at a four kilometers distance from the fires, the two firefighters raised alarm at the firehouse asking for any backup, they could get, because the whole mountain is burning – in fact we would need an airplane with fire extinguishing equipment, but there does not exist such a thing here.
In the end, together with our two rangers and the additional voluntary fire fighters there were elven person in action in the rough terrain. among them two young women.
Three of the unexercised volunteers had to be provided with medicine, because they could not bear with the strain of the steep hike and the movement in the terrain under the fierce heat we had today in León. In the afternoon, two of the man pass out because of the sustained strain. In case of our ranger, the overfatigue aggravates, he is in action almost without rest since yesterday. The also seam to be smoke poisoned. Nadia arranges for them to be brought down the hill with the mule, together with the exhausted women.
Already in deep darkness, approximately at eight in the evening, most fires are under control. The fire fighters move out and Nadia takes them all back to León, with the exception of the rangers.
Tomorrow we must get hold of more people who can help with the firefighting already early in the morning. At night the wind calms down, but tomorrow we expect again strong winds and the fire will raise again from the ember spots.
This time big damage is done. A wealth of adult trees fell pray to the fire, but also tree population which has come up in the last five year is severely damaged. Still, our fire stopping lanes and the fire extinguishing activity, enabled by the fund raising campaign, helped to prevent the worst. It was possible to keep out the fire from the dense forest on the lower hill slope. We cannot estimate the damage yet and we have to count with an aggravation of the situation the day of tomorrow.
At least one of the fire was laid by poachers. When our rangers approached the forest fire they spotted a fleeing man. We suspect it to be someone from the neighborhood.
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Paul fell asleep pleasantly after the bedtime story. Nadia came home with little Jakob an hour later. He was very close to the fire and the agitation and he is sad and angry: “But the fire is still burning”, he cries in rage. We comfort him as good as we can: “The rangers will continue putting out the fire tomorrow, Jakob!”. Terribly tired he falls asleep in the arms of Nadia.
Yesterday, Sunday 18th of February 2018, our forest ranger came to León in order to buy supplies. On the difficult route, his motorcycle hit a stone and the engine oil pan got cracked. Just when we sat and discussed the repair options he got a call from his brother, who takes over in his absence. The northern neighbor finca at the foot of the mountain was lit in fire and the wind was driving the fire front rapidly towards Los Cascabeles.
We handed him over our digital camera instructed him to take pictures while fire fighting and then Nadia took him as close to the finca as possible with our small Suzuki Alto – about 5 kilometers north, He had to go on foot the rest of the way for today.
He called in late night and told us, that they were able to put out almost all fire spots and that the wind had calmed down. The fire damaged about 500 meters of fence and at some places advanced up to 50 meters into Las Cascabeles, but we got away with moderate damage this time.