GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Threats from gunmen prevented the deployment of some of the teams sent to fight the fire in the La Primavera forest in Guadalajara, the capital of the western Mexican state of Jalisco, officials said.
The armed men, who belonged to an unidentified criminal organization, tried to prevent the more than 300 firefighters, emergency management office personnel and residents deployed in the forest from working at various times over the weekend, Jalisco Rural Development Secretary Alvaro Garcia Chavez said.
“There were some threats made in some areas of the fire zone, some people were prevented from entering and others heard gunshots fired to intimidate some of the members of the firefighting teams,” Garcia Chavez said.
The gunmen may have been in the forest because of the area’s vast natural wealth, which is exploited by businesses and criminal organizations, the state official said.
The fire, which started on Saturday morning, has consumed nearly 1,400 hectares (3,456 acres) of forest, with officials labeling the blaze the worst to hit Jalisco in the past six years.
The fire has burned through pastures, dead leaves, bushes and trees in 10 sections of the forest, the National Forestry Commission, or Conafor, said.
Firefighters and volunteers from different cities, as well as army troops, have been fighting the fire since Saturday, using four trucks with pumps, nine tanker trucks, five small planes and several helicopters.
The fire was apparently started by people burning trash at an illegal dump in Arenales Tapatios, an area near the forest, and strong winds helped the flames spread into the protected area, Conafor said.
Firefighting teams have brought the fire partially under control in some sectors, but the blaze has spread due to “whirlwinds of fire caused by the gusts of wind,” Conafor said.
La Primavera, located in Zapopan, is considered “the lungs” of the Guadalajara metropolitan area because it is the only nature reserve near the large city. EFE