Firefighters are battling a forest fire in Los Alerces National Park in Argentine Patagonia, which has already consumed nearly 600 hectares amid high summer temperatures, reports the official Télam agency.
Brigade members and personnel from the Chubut province are working to prevent the flames from reaching the nearby towns of Esquel and Trevelin, about 2,000 km southwest of Buenos Aires.
“The fire is out of control,” stated Mario Cárdenas, head of the Fire, Communications, and Emergencies department of the park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2017.
He mentioned that the fire, which began on Thursday night, grew from affecting about 65 hectares to covering 577 hectares of forests, already extending beyond the park’s jurisdiction.
Controlling the fire is challenging due to adverse conditions, including high winds and temperatures, according to Cárdenas.
Télam reported that the fire, located in the Centinela stream area near Rosales Bay of Lake Futalaufquen, consumed native forests and burned species such as ñire, laura, caña coihue, and lenga.
Los Alerces National Park’s Instagram account stated that on Friday night, a drone surveyed the area to assess the fire’s progress. Firefighters from Esquel, with around 37,000 inhabitants, and Trevelin, with about 8,000, are present to protect the nearby populations.
The National Meteorological Service reported record temperatures of over 40°C in Argentine Patagonia in recent days. This led the provinces of Chubut and Río Negro to declare a fire emergency due to the risk of vegetation fires until April.
According to the SMN forecast, the heat will persist in Patagonia in the coming week and extend northwards to the central and more populous provinces of Buenos Aires, Santa Fe, Córdoba, and Entre Ríos, with temperatures possibly reaching up to 38°C.