In Baja California, Mexican firefighters and local authorities have squared off against quick-moving fires that have left local residents with little time to get to safety.
In the city of Rosarito, more than 60 houses have been destroyed and at least three people have died.
“Never before in the history of Baja California have there been fires like this. Never.” So said Araceli Brown, the mayor of Rosarito.
Rosarito was once a resort beach town that has, in the past 20 years, exploded from a city of 37,120 people to a city of more than 70,000 people.
On Friday night, the mayor had raced to Colonia Morelos, a neighborhood that’s perched on a hill overlooking the city. A fast-moving wildfire swept through a nearby valley, fueled by Santa Ana winds, and took the neighborhood by surprise.
Brown said that following strong rains over the winter, there was far more vegetation in the valleys that was able to burn.
“The fire lept. At other times, the fire ran. No more,” Brown said in Spanish. “But this time the fire jumped, and it fell on the roof the houses and burned down the houses quickly.
The communities hardest hit by the fires last weekend were the ones highest up in the hills, where the residents were least eager to leave their properties. Many residents don’t have official paperwork to show that their homes belong to them. They were worried that if they left, they wouldn’t be allowed to return.
Brown needed to convince them to get out of harm’s way.
“We went to the area to evacuate the people, but the people didn’t want to leave. The fire kept advancing,” Brown said. “The fire advanced in such a way I had never seen. So fast. In a matter of seconds, it was practically over the houses. We had to take the people out of there.”
The Yucatan Times Newsroom with information from https://www.nbcsandiego.com/