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  1. #21
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    Post Fire claims family- 8/11

    MADRID, Spain (Reuters) - The raging forest fires of recent
    weeks claimed their first victims in Spain when five members of
    the same family were found dead Monday, apparently after trying
    to flee their home, which was surrounded by flames.
    "Five burned bodies were found on a road in the forest. It
    appears as though a family tried to escape their home," said a
    spokesman for firefighters in the northeastern Catalonia
    region.
    Emergency workers suspect the five may have died or passed
    out from smoke inhalation then were burned.
    "It really was an unfortunate case because the house where
    they lived remained intact. It was not affected by the fire ...
    Everything leads us to believe they left the house of their own
    will, locked up the house, and probably died of asphyxiation,"
    Artur Mas, chief councilor of the Catalonia regional
    government, told reporters.
    The fire in Sant Llorenc Savall, in Barcelona province in
    northeastern Spain, has forced about 500 people to evacuate
    their homes and has burned 3,250 acres of forest, the Catalonia
    regional government said Monday.
    "The fire is not yet under control," the statement said.
    Another fire in nearby Gallifa has forced the evacuation of
    250 to 300 people, and a third fire was reported to have broken
    out in l'Albiol, the Catalan government said.
    Forest fires have affected much of Europe and consumed more
    than 50,000 hectares in Spain so far this year in a record heat
    wave with temperatures often soaring above 104 degrees
    Fahrenheit.
    The heatwave has claimed more than 20 lives in Spain,
    officials said. In addition, one Spanish firefighter died of a
    heart attack while in action.

    Reut12:06 08-11-03
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  2. #22
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    Post Fires, hot weather continue

    PARIS (AP) - Some French vintners started their earliest
    harvests ever Tuesday and a fire near a railroad station in Germany
    delayed trains - some of the latest difficulties Europe faces as a
    deadly heat wave scorches the continent.
    French utility giant EDF asked customers to shut off lights and
    take other steps to conserve electricity in what meteorologists say
    is one of Europe's hottest summers in generations.
    Power plants in Germany and France were granted temporary
    government approval to discharge water into rivers at higher
    temperatures than normal. In France, a limited number of power
    plants have reduced their energy output or shut down altogether.
    "We are mobilizing all possible means to develop production,"
    Francois Roussely, EDF chairman, told RTL radio. "The biggest
    danger would be to lose electricity."
    The head of France's emergency hospital physicians' association
    said at least 100 people in France alone have died of heat-related
    illnesses since a stifling blanket of hot air settled over Europe.
    Temperatures have hovered around 100 in many countries for days,
    breaking heat records across Europe.
    Patrick Pelloux called on the Red Cross and even the army to
    lend a hand to medical facilities stretched to their limits.
    "We are in an extremely difficult and tragic situation,"
    Pelloux said. "With more people, we would be able to save lives."
    France Info Radio reported that 500 people had been admitted to
    emergency rooms in the Paris region with heat-related illnesses.
    Health Ministry spokesman Mathieu Monnet said it was difficult
    to determine if the deaths were weather-related but statistics on
    the number of deaths were being compiled.
    Outside France, authorities have counted about 45 heat-related
    deaths. On Monday, five people died in Spain while fleeing a fire.
    Wildfires fanned by hot winds have eaten up tens of thousands of
    acres of territory in Italy, France, Greece, Spain, Portugal,
    Croatia, and the Netherlands.
    Algeria dispatched more than 80 firefighters and more than a
    dozen water tanker trucks to the French Mediterranean port city of
    Marseille to help battle fires in southeast France.
    Italian firefighters were battling 21 blazes in numerous
    regions, officials there said. Alpine rescue teams helped evacuate
    about 100 hikers whose path was blocked by a fire near the town of
    Misurina, 90 miles north of Venice.
    In Germany, national railroad Deutsche Bahn said a fire that
    broke out early Tuesday near Hamburg's Altona station delayed 15
    trains but was extinguished within an hour.
    Train service between Berlin and the eastern city of Halle
    returned to normal overnight after overhead wires had to be
    switched off late Monday to allow rescue services access to a
    forest fire, the German national railroad said.
    High temperatures also caused spikes in pollution. Reduced speed
    limits went into effect in areas of southern Switzerland because of
    high ozone levels.
    Nature's rhythms also were disturbed: The harvest began weeks
    earlier than usual in France's Beaujolais winemaking region, where
    grapes have ripened quickly under a pounding sun.
    Three vintners asked authorities for permission to start the
    harvest Tuesday in the central French region known for its light,
    fruity wines. Many more winemakers plan to begin harvesting
    Thursday, said Anne Masson of the Interprofessional Union of
    Beaujolais Wines.
    The Beaujolais harvest has never come so early in the season.
    Before now, the earliest harvest was in 1893, when it began Aug.
    25. Usually, ripe grapes are gathered sometime in September.
    Grouse hunters in Scotland were warned Tuesday that the birds
    might be hard to find because they may have gone off looking for
    water.
    Britain's Environment Agency said Tuesday it rescued about 1,000
    fish from a river in western England that had dried up, leaving the
    fish stranded in small pools with dwindling oxygen supplies.
    Italian weather experts say Europe's heat wave is one of the
    five worst in the last 150 years. Intense monsoon activity in
    Africa has been blamed in part for the merciless temperatures.
    However, forecasters predict relief in coming days.
    The Royal Meteorological Institute in Belgium said temperatures
    Thursday and Friday should be only in the high 70s.
    Meteo France said temperatures throughout France were expected
    to drop by midweek - although they would remain well above average.
    Forecasters were predicting a high of 84 for Thursday in the French
    capital.
    The German Weather Service forecast falling temperatures over
    the next two days with Wednesday's expected arrival of a cold front
    from Scandinavia.

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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  3. #23
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    Post July 27th

    Wildfires hit southern France
    NIMES, France, July 27 (Reuters) - Wildfires swept through
    the Gard region of southern France near Nimes on Tuesday,
    destroying more than 700 hectares (1,700 acres) of scrub and
    forcing dozens of people from their homes, officials said.
    Interior Minister Dominique de Villepin said on Monday that
    more than 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) of brush and pinewood had
    been destroyed in southern France in recent days and urged
    people to take extra care during the hot, dry summer weather.
    More than 600 firefighters battled the flames near the
    ancient city of Nimes, a local government spokeswoman said.
    "There was quite a strong wind pushing the fire forward. We
    hope the winds will ease during the night," she said.

    Reut16:04 07-27-04
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  4. #24
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    Post October 28th

    DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) - Forest fires destroyed most of three
    villages near the Syrian-Turkish border, officials said, forcing
    3,000 people to evacuate as Syrian and Turkish firefighters
    extinguished the blazes on Wednesday.
    An elderly man trapped inside his burning home in the village of
    Eissaweya was the only reported death. Twenty-two people, including
    forest rangers and four firefighters, were treated for smoke
    inhalation or minor burns, according to the official Syrian Arab
    News Agency.
    An official with a local police department said the fire
    destroyed 400 of the 600 houses in Eissaweya, al-Faher and Um
    al-Toyor. The villages' 3,000 inhabitants were evacuated, according
    to the official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of
    anonymity.
    Police said the fires broke out Tuesday, affecting a
    15-square-mile area, and were extinguished by midday Wednesday. The
    police official said, however, that a small blaze in the nearby
    village of al-Safra was still burning.
    More than 60 fire engines and many volunteers worked through the
    night to bring the fires under control. Firefighting planes and
    vehicles from Turkey helped to fight the fires, which affected nine
    villages, SANA reported.
    The agency quoted Environment Minister Hilal al-Atrash, who is
    supervising firefighting operations, as blaming the fires on
    drought and unseasonably warm weather.
    The affected villages are along the Mediterranean near a border
    crossing with Turkey. They are near the port city of Latakia, 220
    miles north of Damascus, but Latakia itself was not threatened.

    (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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  5. #25
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    Post Land of Oz

    Australians Leap into Sea to Avoid Deadly Wildfire

    "PA"


    At least eight people were killed in a wildfire that raced through southern Australia today, forcing terrified residents to leap into the sea to avoid the flames, emergency officials said.

    The blaze on South Australia’s Eyre Peninsula, about 250 miles west of Adelaide, was the worst of several wildfires reported around the state, where temperatures have topped 44 degrees Celsius (111 degrees Fahrenheit) in recent days.

    Residents of at least one township were forced to evacuate their homes and seek refuge on a beach to avoid the flames, State Emergency Services spokesman Stuart Macleod said.

    “Some people had moved into the sea to escape the fire. Our people picked them up and brought them back to shore,” Macleod said.

    The peninsula fire was reported yesterday and contained by firefighters, but flared up again today before blazing out of control, police spokeswoman Kylie Walsh said.

    At least eight people have been killed, but the number was expected to rise as the fire continued to blaze out of control, said police inspector Malcolm Schluter.

    It was not immediately clear what started the blaze. Firefighters said today’s weather conditions made it impossible to contain.

    “There is no firefighting force in the world that can stop the fire in the conditions we experienced today,” Country Fire Service spokesman Simon Vogel told the Ten television network.

    Two other wildfires also forced the closure of several Adelaide roads today.
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  6. #26
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    Post

    Sea rescue as people flee bushfires

    11jan05

    ABOUT six people had been rescued from the sea after fleeing bushfires raging on South Australia's Eyre Peninsula, the State Emergency Service said today.

    Deputy chief officer Stuart Macleod said the SES launched a boat from Port Lincoln to rescue the group, who fled as the intense fires approached North Shields, on the lower part of the peninsula.
    "We deployed a vessel out of Port Lincoln which went up to North Shields, which is where the worst of the fires has been on the coast thus far," he said.

    "Some people had moved into the sea to escape the fire. Our people picked them up and brought them back to shore.

    "There was only one load of people, so about half a dozen or so."

    He said the vessel had since returned to Port Lincoln but it remained on standby in case it was needed again.

    At least five people have died in the bushfires, police confirmed this afternoon.

    Mr Macleod said the SES was working to support the efforts of the Country Fire Service, including setting up roadblocks and conducting resupply runs to fire crews.

    "We're just basically helping the fire service get on with their job," he said.
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  7. #27
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    Post

    Firefighters battle two blazes

    11jan05

    FIREFIGHTERS battled two grassfires in country Victoria this afternoon as temperatures reached 40C.

    About 70 appliances from the Country Fire Authority were called to a 2000ha grass fire about 3km south of Carranballac in western Victoria.
    The fire, which began about 3pm (AEDT), was travelling in a southerly direction but a wind change was expected by 10pm which could push it east, CFA spokesman John Tindall said.

    No houses or buildings have been threatened but smoke and ash has affected the nearby towns of Lismore and Derrinallum.

    The Hamilton Highway and railway line have been closed.

    Mr Tindall said firefighting efforts were being hampered by rough terrain.

    "This is difficult country where it's very, very rocky and it's difficult to get trucks in and out of there," he said.

    "It's not one of the best places to have a fire and its caused us some concern to get into and deal with."

    CFA and Department of Sustainability and Environment firefighters are also fighting a grass and scrub fire which has covered about 60ha, 11km north of Balmoral, in Victoria's far west.

    About 20 tankers are in attendance.
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  8. #28
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    Post

    Tasmanian firefighters on alert
    Tasmanian firefighters are preparing themselves for hot and windy weather conditions forecast for this afternoon.

    A fire weather warning in place for the state's south and King Island.

    The district officer with the Tasmania Fire Service, Ken Burns, is discouraging anyone from burning off and lighting open fires.

    "Any fire burning in the open has got the potential to spread rapidly and be difficult to control so we discourage people generally from doing any burning of any sort today," he said.

    Firefighters worked hard to contain more than 30 vegetation fires overnight and will closely monitor them throughout the day.
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  9. #29
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    Post Deadly

    SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - Firefighters struggled Wednesday to
    contain Australia's most deadly wildfire in more than two decades
    with nine people killed and another six missing, officials said.
    The fire, which started Monday, has burned through about 145,000
    hectares (358,295 acres) of grass and farmland on South Australia
    state's Eyre Peninsula, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) west of
    Adelaide.
    Eight of the victims - including two children aged 4 and 2 -
    burned to death in their cars as they tried to flee the blaze on
    Tuesday and another woman was found dead in her home on Wednesday,
    police spokeswoman Kylie Walsh said.
    Six others are missing and feared dead in the wreckage left by
    the raging fires.
    "It will be some time, perhaps days, before the identity of any
    of the deceased can be established," Walsh said.
    The Eyre Peninsula blaze is the worst wildfire to hit Australia
    since the so-called Ash Wednesday fires of 1983, in which 75 people
    were killed in South Australia and neighboring Victoria state.
    Fanned by strong winds and temperatures in excess of 44 degrees
    Celsius (111 Fahrenheit), the fire raged out of control on Tuesday,
    forcing many local residents to flee their homes and seek refuge on
    nearby beaches or in the sea.
    The inferno razed five houses, two cabins, three sheds, one
    shop, seven vehicles, 15 caravans and four boats.
    Peninsula resident Russell Puckridge said he had only three
    minutes to vacate his home before it was enveloped by flames.
    "I've been here nearly 15 years and this year we paid our house
    off, but she's gone, gone," he told ABC radio.
    About 250 firefighters continued to fight the blaze Wednesday
    afternoon.
    "Our big priority now is that the fire is not actually yet
    contained," state emergency services minister Patrick Conlon said,
    citing concerns that the hot weather was set to continue.
    Temperatures were slightly cooler on Wednesday, but were
    expected to rise again to about 36 degrees Celsius (97 Fahrenheit)
    on Thursday, fire services spokesman Chris Smith said.
    Prime Minister John Howard on Wednesday expressed sadness over
    the deaths, saying they were "a terrible reminder of the
    ever-present threat of bushfires and their devastating effect on
    this country."
    Meanwhile, a separate wildfire in Victoria burned through about
    8,500 hectares (21,004 acres) of grass in public and private
    properties, destroying a house, a car, a shed and about 2,000 head
    of sheep.

    (Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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  10. #30
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    Post

    Worst Australia bushfires in 20 yrs under control
    ADELAIDE, Jan 12 (Reuters) - Firefighters brought
    Australia's deadliest bushfires in 20 years under control on
    Wednesday after nine people died in the blazes.
    Up to 15 more people were missing, emergency officials
    said.
    Large areas of southern Australia are on alert for more
    outbreaks after fires raced in a line across the Eyre
    peninsula, about 250 km (155 miles) west of the South Australia
    state capital Adelaide.
    The South Australian Country Fire Service said the Eyre
    peninsula fires, which began on Monday, had been brought under
    control earlier on Wednesday.
    State police said the body of a woman had been found in a
    home in the tiny coastal hamlet of North Shields.
    Eight others, including two young children, were confirmed
    dead on Tuesday. All eight died in their cars as they tried to
    flee the blazes, fanned by high winds and scorching
    temperatures.
    South Australian Police Commissioner Mal Hyde declared the
    fires a major emergency, meaning emergency aid and recovery
    must be provided for 48 hours.
    The fires burned out about 100,00 hectares (250,000 acres),
    including grazing land. Property damage has been described as
    significant and estimates of livestock losses have been put at
    10,000.
    Fire alerts remain this week for South Australia,
    neighbouring Victoria and New South Wales, Australia's most
    populous state.
    Bushfires are a constant threat to tinder-dry bushland
    during the sweltering Australian summer, although the Eyre
    peninsula fires were the first major blazes of this season.
    Fires described as Australia's worst environmental disaster
    destroyed more than three million hectares (7.4 million acres)
    across three states and territories, killing four people in the
    capital Canberra, in the summer of 2002/03.
    In 1983, the devastating "Ash Wednesday" fires in South
    Australia and Victoria killed 76 people.



    REUTERS
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  11. #31
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    Post Nine dead, 3 missing

    By MERAIAH FOLEY
    Associated Press Writer
    SYDNEY, Australia (AP) - Firefighters contained a wildfire that
    killed nine people and left three others missing, the nation's
    deadliest blaze in more than two decades, officials said Thursday.
    The fire, which started Monday, has consumed about 358,300 acres
    of grass and farmland on South Australia state's Eyre Peninsula,
    about 250 miles west of Adelaide.
    Country Fire Service spokeswoman Leanne Adams said 80 new
    firefighters arrived on the peninsula Thursday to relieve earlier
    crews. Their next task was to burn a 100-foot fire break around the
    85-mile perimeter of the fire, she said.
    "The fire is contained. There were no flare ups overnight,"
    Adams said.
    Eight of the victims - including two children aged 4 and 2 -
    burned to death in their cars as they tried to flee the blaze
    Tuesday and another woman was found dead in her home Wednesday,
    police spokeswoman Kylie Walsh said.
    Three others were missing and feared dead, she said. "It will
    be some time, perhaps days, before the identity of any of the
    deceased can be established."
    Fanned by strong winds and temperatures reaching 111 degrees,
    the fire raged out of control Tuesday. Local residents to fled to
    beaches or sought refuge in the sea. The inferno razed houses,
    shops, vehicles and boats.
    Peninsula resident Russell Puckridge said he had only three
    minutes to vacate his home before it was enveloped by flames.
    "I've been here nearly 15 years and this year we paid our house
    off, but she's gone, gone," he told ABC radio.
    Prime Minister John Howard on Wednesday said the deaths were "a
    terrible reminder of the ever-present threat of bushfires and their
    devastating effect on this country."
    A separate wildfire in Victoria burned through about 21,000
    acres of public and private properties, destroying a house, a car,
    a shed and about 2,000 head of sheep.
    The Eyre Peninsula blaze is the worst wildfire to hit Australia
    since the Ash Wednesday fires of 1983. That fire killed 75 people
    in South Australia and neighboring Victoria state.

    APTV 01-12-05 2200EST
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  12. #32
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    Post

    Uruguay wildfire forces tourists to flee
    MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (Reuters) - A wildfire that has
    been burning for two days has forced thousands of vacationers
    out of Uruguay's Santa Teresa National Park and nearby tourist
    attractions, officials said Wednesday.
    The fire has partially destroyed the park, on the eastern
    coast of Uruguay, and was threatening the popular fishing
    village of Punta del Diablo, 190 miles east of
    Montevideo.
    "The fire has returned (to Punta del Diablo), it has
    changed direction but it is being fought back," Jose Maria
    Rivero, director of the National Emergency System, told
    Reuters.
    So far, 10,000 people have been forced to leave the area.
    Uruguay's beaches and nearby woodlands are very popular
    with Latin American tourists, particularly Argentines.
    Another fire that was creeping toward the beach resort of
    La Coronilla, further east, was stopped just miles from town.
    La Coronilla is 25 miles from the border with Brazil.
    Argentina has offered assistance in fighting the blaze and
    Brazilian firefighters were already helping.
    Four men have been arrested in connection with the blazes,
    fire chief Hugo Romeo told a local newspaper Wednesday.
    REUTERS
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  13. #33
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    Post

    By JOSE P. MONEGRO
    Associated Press Writer
    SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) - The Dominican Republic
    may ask Puerto Rico to help fight a forest fire that's been raging
    in the Caribbean nation's central mountain range for nearly two
    weeks, officials said Monday.
    Clouds at high elevation and smoke from the fire has hindered
    firefighting efforts and made it impossible to estimate how much
    land is burning, said Milton Tejada, a spokesman for the
    environment secretary.
    "We have more than 700 men working in the area, but conditions
    are favorable for the fire," Tejada said. "If necessary, we would
    ask Puerto Rico to use a plane and a helicopter" to dump retardant
    on the blaze.
    Dominican authorities were investigating the cause of the fire,
    which began in the lower part of Duarte Mountain in the Jose del
    Carmen Ariza National Park, said Danneris Santana, sub-secretary of
    environment.
    Santana said vegetation in the area was dry because of little
    rain in the past few months.
    The National Meteorology Center said Monday no rain was expected
    over the next three days.
    Set at 3,175 meters (10,416 feet) above sea level, the popular
    hiking area around Duarte Mountain has been closed since last
    weekend because of the blaze.
    The central mountain range covers approximately 758 square
    kilometers (293 square miles) and comprises a handful of cities
    including Santiago, the country's second largest with 1 million
    people.
    Though the fire is over 30 kilometers (18 miles) away from
    Santiago, authorities said smoke had reached the city. Authorities
    said the blaze has yet to come close to any houses or structures.
    (jm-pp/fg)

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  14. #34
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    Post

    SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) - About 700 firefighters
    and soldiers dug fire lines Tuesday as they battled a raging forest
    fire in the Caribbean nation's touristy central mountain range.
    Clouds and thick smoke prevented military helicopters from
    dropping water or retardant on the blaze, said Col. Francisco
    Fernandez, spokesman for the Dominican armed forces.
    The Dominican Republic has asked Puerto Rico to lend a special
    plane to drop retardant during fly overs, Fernandez said.
    Poor visibility has made it impossible to estimate how much land
    was burning or investigate the cause of the fire, authorities said.
    A dry spell over the past few months has withered vegetation and
    it was likely to continue through April, said Jose Maria Duquela,
    director of the National Meteorology Office.
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    Post Update March 29th

    By PETER PRENGAMAN
    Associated Press Writer
    SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic (AP) - Hundreds of
    firefighters dug trenches around the perimeter of the highest peak
    in the Dominican Republic on Tuesday, trying to contain a forest
    fire that broke out nearly three weeks ago on its drought-stricken
    slopes, an official said.
    The fire has consumed at least 63 square kilometers (24 square
    miles) of forest, but the devastation might turn out to be more
    extensive once a thorough survey of the area can be done, said
    Environment Secretary Max Puig, giving the government's first
    damage estimates.
    Clouds at the high elevation and smoke from the fire have
    hindered firefighting efforts since the fire began March 11 in the
    lower part of Duarte Mountain in the Jose del Carmen Ariza National
    Park, some 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of the capital Santo
    Domingo.
    The popular hiking area around the 3,175-meter (10,416-foot)
    Duarte Mountain has been closed since then. Puig said authorities
    were still investigating what caused the fire.
    About 700 firefighters and soldiers were close to containing the
    blaze by digging trenches around its perimeter, while two
    Venezuelan helicopters dropped retardant on hot spots. Authorities
    expect the fire to burn itself out within a few days unless new
    focal points pop up outside the trenches, Puig said.
    The worst drought in five years has withered vegetation and made
    forests in the Caribbean nation particularly flammable, said Miguel
    Campusano, forecast director for the National Weather Office.
    Campusano said rainfall between January and April was normally
    low, but this year it had been almost nonexistent. Campusano said
    in the central mountain range only 2.7 millimeters (0.1 inches) of
    rain fell in February, far below the average 116 millimeters (4.6
    inches) for that month.
    Campusano attributed the drought to the El Nino weather pattern,
    which he said was causing warmer-than-normal sea surface
    temperatures that reduced storm conditions and thus overall
    precipitation.
    The drought has also affected other Caribbean countries.
    Little rain has fallen in western Puerto Rico since November.
    In nearly a month, some 250 acres (100 hectares) of forest have
    been consumed in three spots in the State Forest of Maricao, in
    west central Puerto Rico, said fire department chief German Ocasio.
    Some small farmhouses have been burned, but no injuries or deaths
    have been reported.
    Although the fires have been contained, they will probably not
    be completely extinguished until expected April rains.
    For the past month, many bushfires have broken out in St.
    Elizabeth parish, a farming region in southern Jamaica. Several
    farms have been burned, but no injuries or deaths have been
    reported.
    (pp-mn-dk)
    ---
    Associated Press Writer Howard Campbell contributed to this
    report from Jamaica.

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    MEXICO CITY (AP) - Authorities in Guadalajara declared a smog
    alert Tuesday, closing schools after forest fires raging nearby
    blanketed much of Mexico's second-largest city with a pall of thick
    gray smog.
    Hundreds of fire fighters and volunteers were battling more than
    a dozen separate blazes in forests outside the city, 280 miles (450
    kilometers) west of the nation's capital.
    But the worst smoke came from two large fires, one sparked by a
    campfire, Monday afternoon in the Bosque de la Primavera reserve.
    The blazes destroyed hundreds of acres of woodlands, raising the
    level of suspended particles in the air to unhealthy levels,
    authorities said.
    The education secretary for Jalisco state, which includes
    Guadalajara, ordered all municipal schools closed and the city's
    main universities also shut their doors to protect students,
    faculty members and staff from unhealthy air.
    Officials from the state health secretary issued a
    recommendation that residents stay in doors and said they had taken
    extra precautions to treat asthma patients who could be especially
    affected.
    Mexico has seen more fires so far in 2005 than in any of the
    preceding four years, and still must suffer through five to six
    more weeks of dry, hot weather before seasonal rains set in, said
    Environment Secretary Alberto Cardenas.
    Forest fires were also burning in Puebla and Oaxaca states and
    in the southern state of Chiapas, where blazes devoured hundreds of
    federally protected acres in the Lacandon jungle.
    Cardenas said abundant rains in recent years had fed the growth
    of forests, increasing the potential for fires.

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    ZAPOPAN, Mexico (AP) - Efforts to control dwindling wildfires in
    western Mexico claimed a life on Saturday as a helicopter crashed
    outside Guadalajara, killing the pilot, authorities reported.
    No other people were on board the privately owned helicopter
    when it plunging into a river near Zapopan, about 290 miles (470
    kilometers) west of Mexico City, said Julio Quinones, a spokesman
    for the Zapopan police department.
    The helicopter had been helping federal authorities monitor the
    smoldering aftermath of several forest fires in the Bosque de la
    Primavera reserve.
    The fires had sent a pall of smoke over Guadalajara, Mexico's
    second-largest city, where a health alert was issued and schools
    were closed as a result of poor air quality. Schools reopened on
    Thursday.
    Skies were calm on Saturday, and the cause of the crash was not
    immediately known, police said.
    Mexico has seen more fires so far in 2005 than in any of the
    preceding four years and still must suffer through several weeks of
    dry, hot weather before seasonal rains arrive.

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    Post Fires turn deady

    MEXICO CITY (AP) - Forest fires raging in a rural corner of
    Mexico's most-populous state Wednesday killed four adults and two
    children who had volunteered to help combat the flames, federal
    authorities said.
    Environment Secretary Alberto Cardenas issued an urgent call for
    soldiers to join 100 federal, state and local officials, as well as
    dozens of volunteers and firefighters outside the city of
    Tejupilco, in Mexico state, which borders Mexico City.
    Authorities were also using a helicopter to battle the blaze,
    which was burning about 80 miles (125 kilometers) southwest of the
    nation's capital, according to a statement released by Cardenas'
    office.
    The fire began Tuesday morning and has continued to grow,
    causing evacuations and seriously injuring one person in addition
    to the volunteers whose lives it claimed, the statement said.
    Those killed were residents who joined firefighters after the
    blaze threatened the area, the statement said. Killed around 1 p.m.
    were David Jaramillo, Francisco Benitez, Fernando Albiter, Esteban
    Jaramillo, Pedro Barrueta and Carlos Barrueta Sanchez, though the
    circumstances surrounding their deaths were not clear.
    The name of the volunteer who was gravely injured could not be
    confirmed, the statement said.
    Forest fires have menaced much of Mexico recently, especially in
    areas where rains have been slow to come during the early weeks of
    the country's wet season.
    Last week, a thick gray pall of smoke generated by more than a
    dozen forest fires burning outside Guadalajara, Mexico's
    second-largest city, forced officials to call a smog emergency and
    close schools. Fires have also claimed thousands of acres of
    woodlands in the central state of Puebla as well as Chiapas,
    Mexico's southernmost state.

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    FEATURE-Park at world's southern tip recovers from Chile fire
    By Katie Burford
    TORRES DEL PAINE, Chile (Reuters) - It took a month
    and 800 firefighters to put out an immense wildfire earlier
    this year in remote southern Chile's Torres del Paine national
    park, world renowned for its awe-inspiring granite spires and
    glaciers.
    Now, near the southern tip of the world where the growing
    season is compressed into a few months, authorities have begun
    the long process of helping nature heal from the park's worst
    fire in decades, started when a Czech tourist's camp burner
    blew over.
    Tourism officials, meanwhile, are assuring nervous tour
    operators from France to Japan that Chile's most famous park is
    still a rugged backpackers' paradise. Tourism pumps an
    estimated $75 million a year into Chile's extreme south.
    "Something that man caused, man can also fix," said Marco
    Cordero, regional director for Conaf, Chile's forest service.
    Immediate concerns are that erosion could alter the park's
    brilliant turquoise lakes, invasive plant species could gain a
    foothold or endangered wildlife could be forced outside the
    park's protective boundaries to forage for food.
    As a token of goodwill, the Czech government contributed
    about $185,500 toward the recovery, which is expected to cost
    $7 million.
    Preserving this pristine hinterland in the heart of
    Patagonia, a loosely defined region that encompasses
    southernmost Chile and Argentina, is about more than
    aesthetics.
    "Tourism for the Magellan region is one of the main sources
    of revenue," said Miguel Angel, regional director for Chile's
    Sernatur tourism department.
    Torres del Paine is Chilean Patagonia's headline
    attraction, but the Straits of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego, Cape
    Horn and Antarctica are other popular destinations.
    Most that journey to this far-flung, glacier-encrusted
    region expect to encounter its legendary wind. It forces trees
    to grow sideways and has merited a mention by every prominent
    chronicler to pass through in the last 500 years.
    The wind frustrated the efforts of firefighters gathered
    from all over Chile and Argentina to put down the fast-moving
    blaze, which seemed to send fingers out in all directions.
    Authorities point out that only a fraction of the park
    burned -- 45 square miles of 935 square miles
    total -- and this was more than a mile
    from the park's signature spires, which jut from plains in
    a cluster like a prairie Atlantis.
    Still the damage is startling. Travelers on the park's
    easternmost road drop over a hill to find themselves suddenly
    surrounded by a barren moonscape. In sections, charred ground
    stretches for as far as the eye can see.
    The fire, which began Feb. 17, hit at the peak of the
    park's four-month tourist season, which starts in December, the
    middle of the southern-hemisphere summer.
    Tourism officials say they have not seen a unusual dip in
    visitors, which number about 100,000 a year from 80 different
    countries. As a precaution, they put the word out at travel
    fairs around the globe that Torres del Paine is still very much
    worth the trip.

    ABOUNDS WITH WILDLIFE
    Native people believed the peaks, which soar as high as
    10,000 feet, were warriors turned to stone by an evil
    spirit. Starting in the early 1900s the surrounding land,
    cursed by many a settler as worthless, was used for ranching,
    until 1959 when it was declared a national park. Tourism
    started to hit its stride in the '90s.
    Outside Patagonia's protected areas large sheep farms still
    operate and overgrazing of the pampa is a major concern of
    environmental groups. The wildfire that devastated Torres del
    Paine also burned 15 square miles of adjacent
    private ranchland.
    The park abounds with wildlife -- ostrich-like nandu,
    Andean condors, llama-like guanaco, Austral parakeets,
    flamingos, puma and the endangered huemul, a member of the deer
    family. The only known fatalities of the fire were a handful of
    guanaco.
    The first stage of the 12-year fire recovery plan involves
    filling in trenches, dug as a barriers to contain the fire;
    building dikes to prevent erosion; and collecting seeds to use
    for reseeding next season. The government is compensating
    ranchers whose land is being grazed by displaced wildlife.

    SYMBOLIC PARK
    Although Czech tourist Jiri Smitak has said he deeply
    regrets the fire, many Chileans were incensed that he only
    received a $200 fine. Lawmakers called for tougher penalties
    and the State Defense Council filed a suit against Smitak
    seeking damages.
    National pride in the park runs deep but since it is not
    connected to the rest of Chile by road, the park is expensive
    to reach and only about a third of Torres del Paine visitors
    are Chilean. Most come from the United States or European
    countries. Visitors fly in to an airport about a four-hour
    drive south of the park.
    Cordero said various organizations from around the globe
    have offered to help with funds or expertise.
    "For the whole world, Torres del Paine park is something of
    an emblem," he said.
    REUTERS

    Reut08:00 05-17-05
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    Post CHISASIBI, Quebec, Canada

    CHISASIBI, Que. (CP) - Residents of this northern Cree community
    were told they could return home Sunday night after firefighters
    brought a nearby forest fire under control.
    "The fire is practically extinguished," said Helene Philippe,
    a spokeswoman for the federal department of Indian and Northern
    Affairs. "There are only two little hot spots remaining on which
    local firefighters are working. It is not a threat to the
    community."
    The fire started at about 11 a.m. Saturday. It took about 130
    firefighters and two water bombers to bring the fire under control,
    civil protection officials said.
    The fire had come to within a kilometre of the town of 3,500
    earlier on Sunday, prompting authorities to order 600 residents to
    leave as a precaution.
    Eighty people were flown to Val D'or,about 630 kilometres south
    of the community and 150 were taken to Radisson, 120 kilometres
    east of the town, said Claude Gagne, Radisson's emergency services
    co-ordinator. The remaining 370 went to other aboriginal
    communities, he said.
    The fire caused no injuries or material damage. Rather,
    evacuations were made as a precaution.
    "The people who were evacuated from Chisasibi are people who
    can't be (exposed) to smoke. We're talking about people with
    pulmonary problems or health problems," he said.
    Those people are now returning home after Chief Abraham Rupert
    lifted the local state of emergency, Philippe said.
    "It's good news. It seems everything is back in order," she
    said.
    Civil protection officials say fires are common in the James Bay
    area and spread easily due to dry spots, caribou moss and conifer
    leaves.
    The cause of the fire was being investigated.
    (CP-Montreal Gazette)


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