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Renewable Vibes > News > Blog > In a usual scenario of abundant rainfall, Colombia finds itself grappling with extensive wildfires.

In a usual scenario of abundant rainfall, Colombia finds itself grappling with extensive wildfires.

Helicopters are being used to combat the fires that have been raging in the mountains around Bogotá, Colombia’s capital, for the past week. The country is experiencing its hottest January in three decades, with dozens of fires burning across the country. The president has declared a national disaster and requested international assistance to fight the fires, as they pose a threat to not only the Andes Mountains but also the Pacific Coast and the Amazon.

Colombia is not accustomed to wildfires, as the country typically experiences heavy rainfall and mudslides. The fires have been attributed to high temperatures and drought exacerbated by the climate phenomenon known as El Niño. Ricardo Lozano, a geologist and former environment minister, stated that El Niño events are becoming more intense and extreme due to climate change.

The record temperatures this month, including 111 degrees Fahrenheit in the colonial town of Honda, have dried out forests, savannas, and normally damp highlands known as páramos. Over 100 square miles have been scorched so far, and officials predict that more fires are likely before the rainy season begins in April. Fires have also been reported in neighboring Venezuela and Ecuador, including in an ecological preserve.

Firefighting crews, many of them volunteers, are struggling to contain the fires, which are fueled by the heat and winds. The mayor of Bogotá declared the city’s fires officially under control but new fires have been reported both in the city and its outskirts. Helicopters, including Black Hawk helicopters donated by the United States, are being used to transport water to the hot spots.

The fires have caused extensive damage, displacing poor farmers living in the mountains, incinerating animals, and decimating swaths of the forest. It will take years for the forest to recover. The fires have also had a devastating impact on the páramos, which are critical for supplying water to urban populations.

Most of the fires in Colombia have been started by people, either accidentally while burning garbage or clearing land for farming, or with criminal intent. At least one person has been killed in the fires. The Colombian government is urging people to report fires using the hashtag “El Niño is not a game.” Brazil, Canada, and Peru have promised to send aid to Colombia.

President Gustavo Petro has emphasized the link between the fires and climate change, but critics argue that concrete steps to prepare for such emergencies have not been taken. Recent budget cuts to fire departments and a lack of planning have hindered the country’s response to the fires.

In response to these claims, Colombia’s environment ministry stated that it had been planning for El Niño for months and allocated over $2 billion for fire preparedness and response. The ministry also highlighted the creation of a community network for prevention and communication.

The situation in Colombia is a combination of El Niño, the climate crisis, and human activities that have caused extremely dry conditions and led to the devastating fires.

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