Wildfires have destroyed nearly 1,500 hectares
By Antonio De Jesús Aguado
Over a period of five days fires ranged over 100 hectares in Los Picachos. Felipe Cohen, head of the Civil Protection Department, said that from October 2012 to May 2013, 466 forest fires have started in the municipality and have consumed 1,447 hectares, 100 of them in Los Picachos and 100 on the road to Dolores Hidalgo in places such as Taboada, la Cieneguita, Temazcali, Loma Lagartija, Santa Margarita and San Benito, among others. Cohen explained that in those fires important flora and fauna in Los Picachos were lost. He reported that the personnel working to extinguish the blazes worked from 2pm until late in the night or the early morning hours until the fires were out, but the next day new fires erupted. Cohen added that the Ecology Department is preparing a report analyzing the damage and making a plan for reforestation. The damaged lands belong to individuals and ejidatarios (residents of communally owned land).
According to the director, at the end of 2012 the current local administration created a special group to fight wildfires because previously when there was a fire the local government sent personnel from various departments such as Traffic, Public Security and even the Red Cross, but they often were called away to attend to other emergencies and the fires were not extinguished properly. The current group is made up of 12 personnel from the Red Cross and the Fire Department and receives help from other residents during emergencies.
Cohen commented that the fires were started either deliberately or accidentally by humans, because there are no indicators of natural causes. He asks sanmiguelenses to denounce those known to cause this damage to the environment so they can be punished. The penalties for starting wildfires, according to Cohen, range from fines of 300 or 500 days of the minimum salary in the state to prison without the possibility of bail. Denouncements must be filed at the Ministerio Público (district attorney’s office).