ISLA HOLBOX, Q. Roo — A wildfire on the Quintana Roo island of Holbox has consumed between six and 11 hectares of savannah and wetlands, and while early reports said it was set intentionally, government officials have since determined the cause was a lightning strike.
The fire began late evening Saturday Sept. 17 in the northeastern part of the island and soon gained strength, becoming visible from the mainland town of Chiquilá some 15 kilometers away.
Pictures of the fire were soon posted on social media by locals, who claimed that the blaze had been intentionally started on contested parcels of land known as La Ensenada.
That location is a site where for years developers have tried to build a controversial tourist project with the support of outgoing Governor Roberto Borge.
A 20-strong brigade from the National Forest Commission (Conafor) arrived in the area early Sunday morning to be reinforced Monday by 30 or 40 more, reported the commission’s state delegate, Rafael León.
“The location of the fire is inaccessible, getting there [on foot] is very difficult, and it’s far from [the town of Holbox] . . . from this we can deduce that a thunderstorm was what ignited the fire,” said Conafor director Jorge Rescala.
The blaze was estimated to have consumed 11 hectares within the natural protected area of Yum Balam after a helicopter flyover yesterday by Conafor officials, along with representatives from the environmental agency Profepa and the National Protected Areas Commission (Conanp).
The Conafor ground brigade estimated that the fire would be under control Monday, but since it was moving rapidly it could finish up consuming a total of 30 hectares, León said.
Profepa officials have declared that once the fire is completely extinguished they will carry out an inspection visit to the affected area along with their Conanp counterparts in order to determine the magnitude of the damage.
Rescala said there have been 8,617 forest fires this year, up significantly from the 3,704 recorded in 2015. This year’s fires have burned a total of 263,468 hectares.
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