Fires Rage Out of Control In And Around Mérida

Residents of several municipalities, including Tixkokob and Acanceh, have reported poor air quality as winds spread smoke across the countryside. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The relatively early arrival of extreme heat to Yucatán has caused hundreds of fires, big and small. So far in March alone, the state has registered 330 fires, which have turned countless swaths of land to ash and created smoky conditions.  

Fires are not unusual during this time of year in the region, but it is surprising how many are taking place in Yucatán’s capital.

Aside from Mérida, most of the reported fires have been concentrated in and around Kanasín and Caucel.

“We are seeing large amounts of fires that start small on places like the side of the road but quickly rage out of control,” said the civil protection director, Enrique Alcocer Basto.

Several of these fires start with glass bottles that act like magnifying glasses when hit by the sun and turn surrounding vegetation and waste to tinder. 

Several fires have also been reported at warehouses along Mérida’s Periférico, many of which have been attributed to faulty wiring.

Last year, an intense fire burned for days in Mérida’s industrial park after a short circuit ignited a warehouse full of disposable plastic goods. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

Then, there are the “controlled” agricultural fires that get out of control due to winds carrying sparks into nearby dry areas. 

The “slash-and-burn” agriculture method involves clearing a piece of land by cutting down vegetation and burning it. The ashes from the fire provide nutrients for the soil, making it more fertile for planting crops. However, this method is not sustainable if practiced too frequently, as it can lead to deforestation and soil erosion. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

The situation is being made worse by the deforestation experienced in several parts of the state, including the capital.

The construction of new subdivisions not only contributes to deforestation but also blocks the flow of rain. Photo: Carlos Rosado van der Gracht / Yucatán Magazine

“We all want growth, but we have to find a way to better balance the construction of new residential and commercial developments with what the ecosystem can handle,” said Mérida Mayor Renán Barrera Concha. 

The extremely dry conditions have also given way to several fires caused by cigarette butts and other forms of thoughtless behavior. 

Last week, a devastating fire hit the TechnoHotel resort in Telchac Puerto, causing damages in the millions after a thatched roof caught fire during a wedding and then spread to nearby trees and structures. 

A fire at the TechnoHotel resort was likely started by fireworks during a wedding celebration. Photo: Courtesy
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Carlos Rosado van der Gracht
Born in Mérida, Carlos Rosado van der Gracht is a Mexican/Canadian blogger, photographer and adventure expedition leader. He holds degrees in multimedia, philosophy, and translation from universities in Mexico, Canada and Norway.
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