Danger, danger! The park is on fuego!

The meter at the forest service’s Laguna Amarga outpost called it right when rating the fire danger “extreme” yesterday. Since mid-afternoon, clouds of thick gray and black smoke have risen from the pampa near Laguna Azul, about 10 km from where I’m based at Refugio Torre Central. As of now, no one’s sure how the fire started.

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My friend and coworker Gabriel Ortega headed out to see the fire around 4:30 this afternoon and took a few shots while he was at it.

Brigadeers from the nearby town of Rio Turbio in Argentina have been fighting the blaze for most of the day and say they have it mostly under control. Still, the hot, dry weather over the last two weeks has left most of the grass around here a brittle brown, and the wind has been blowing hard all day. Not a good combo.

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Uncontrolled wildfires have destroyed parts of the park several times before — most recently in February 2005, when a hiker’s lit campstove overturned in an area where fires where prohibited. The resulting flames singed about 5 percent of the park — 28,083 of the park’s 598,500 acres, 37,602 acres total.
The hostería Las Torres is assembling a team of volunteers to fight the fire starting Wednesday. The group will head out at 8 a.m. with shovels and buckets, and has been warned not to wear clothing that contains plastic. No pleather pants, people. Suerte!

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All rights reserved on the photos.

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