Residents and tourists in Playa del Carmen awoke this morning to find the resort town covered in smoke.
As the day went on, air quality improved but the smell of smoke in the air remained noticeable in several parts of town.
The smoke is the result of agricultural fires that have raged out of control in northern Quintana Roo.
“The extreme heat of the past few weeks combined with a lack of rain in the region has resulted in a tinderbox of sorts,” said a local meteorologist, Antonio Morales Ocaña.
Controlled agricultural fires in Quintana Roo are regulated by the state’s rural development agency. But farmers in the area have been known to ignore regulations and ignite clandestine fires to clear out large plots of land.
The public can call 911 to report fires that have exceeded their boundaries or pose a danger to people, livestock, or property.
Given the extremely dry conditions, state authorities are encouraging residents to properly dispose of cigarette butts, discarded bottles, and broken glass.
In 2020, Quintana Roo lost over 41,000 hectares in 68 forest fires. But it is not the only state experiencing this problem. So far in 2021, Mexico has lost over 160,000 hectares to fire.
Environmental groups and government agencies across the country have highlighted the importance of preventing forest fires, but also acknowledge the role of climate change as a major contributing factor.
“This is a problem which has continued to get worse over time. There is no doubt that the increasing devastation caused by forest fires has its origin in our planet’s rapidly changing climate,” said Greenpeace Mexico.