DEVASTATING WILDFIRES IN MEXICO CLAIM LIVES, FORCE MASS EVACUATIONS

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Update October 26:  30 homes have burned in Rosarito, where a man and his dog were found dead after their home burned, Mexico News Daily reports. Over 70 homes have now burned in Tecate. The National Forestry Commission (Conafor) had contained only 35% of the estimated 50 fires raging in Mexico.

By Miriam Raftery

“People had to hike out through the mountains to save their lives,” – Tecate resident Veronica Lavarello

October 25, 2019 (Tecate, Mexico) – Fires burning in Mexico have displaced at least 1,645 people forced to evacuate their homes. The blazes have killed three people, Associated Press Reports. Deaths include a 12-year-old girl and a 19-year-old woman, the Mexican new site Radar Tecate reports.  Antonio Rosquillas, director of Baja California Civil Protection, indicates two others are injured. In Rosarito, where 30 homes have burned, a man died in a structure fire along with his dog, Mexico News Daily reports.

Tecate Mayor Zulema Adams announced that at least 54 homes  have been destroyed and 100 have been damaged.

One of the fires shut down the coastal highway north of Ensenada for several hours today. A fire in the Tecate region burned over 35,000 acres. Schools in Tijuana, Tecata and Rosarito were all ordered closed today due to heavy smoke.

Smoke has been visible on the northern side of the international border but thus far the blazes are confined to Mexico.

Mexico’s president has declared a state of emergency, as dozens of families remain in shelters.  Tonight, the intensity of Santa Ana winds has diminished, aiding firefighters battling the blazes.

Tecate resident Veronica Lavarello sent an e-mail to ECM tonight described the fires in the Tecate area, which she indicated began at MaClavio Herrera and continue burning near la Colonia el Mirador and Salamandra, south of the city.  The conflagration began in a mountainous area and swiftly engulfed homes in the Mirador, Salamandra, Escorial, Obrera and Capiri colonies, as well as ranches, also damaging 60 vehicles. 

“Homes burned fast because most were made of wood and were built near each other,” she said, adding that at least two people are missing and burn victims are being cared for in a local hospital. “Another fire is burning near Valle de la Palmas; the University site of UABC has been evacuated,” she says, adding that fires are also burning near la Colonia el Castillo, near the dam El Carrizo going toward Tijuana, where “people were evacuated, about 500 homes. People have been taken to the Police Academy building as a shelter.” Other shelters include the Memo de Almonte school and Cecutec, the cultural center of Tecate.  Farmhouses have been lost in that area, she advises.

She adds, “Many firefighters and volunteers were already grouped at the fire station of Tecate early this morning to go help fight the fires.  Winds were blowing about 100 kilometers per hour which made the situation worse.  Tecate was waiting for help from CalFires.  I do not know the outcome of that.”

Cal Fire spokesman Issac Sanchez later advised ECM that Cal Fire was not dispatched to the border Friday.  The agency was dispatched to combat multiple fires burning in San Diego County, including fires in Ramona and Valley Center threatening homes.

Tonight, Lavarello indicates, the fires are south of the city in Cerro Azul and la Colonia El Mirador. Some people could not evacuate through the only exit out of their neighborhoods, “so people had to hike out through the mountains to save their lives,” Lavarello says, adding that these are “some of the worst fires in the history of Tecate.”

View video on Lavarello's Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/veronica.lavarello/videos/10157093165917600/

Although CalFire has an international agreement for mutual aid when needed, the California state firefighters today were devoting their efforts to fighting down brush fires in San Diego County that burned several structures including blazes in Ramona, Valley Center and Camp Pendleton fueled by gusty winds amid hot, dry conditions amid power outages that shut off electricity to at least 16,000 SDG&E customers.

Comments

Fire Location Information

Good point Tom. If only some agency like CalFire were to list and locate fires in Baja within some minimum distance to the San Diego County line others including the media would have the information available. Mexico most likely has it plotted and through the CalFire Coopertive agreement with Mexico should be able to get it without doing new research. I believe ECM got their information for this article from a Mexico publication so information surely exists but is not readily available to the US side public.

Our sources on the Tecate fire included

the Mexican news site Radar Tecate, which you can read in English using Google translate, as well as an eyewitness who lives in Tecate. We are very appreciative of her for reaching out to contact us with additional information. I agree, it is often very difficult to get news on fires in Mexico even when they are very close to our border. It would be great if the County's Emergency Services or County Fire Authority would track fires in northern Mexico and make that info available to the public.

Tecate and Ensenada

I've visited those areas, there are many homes and ranches there. Like the east county there may not be reliable access to TV and radio for fire information. Neighbors rely on one another to protect their property and life.

East County Fires in Mexico

Thank you East County Magazine! As a southeast County resident it is very hard to get information on fires we often see just across the border in Mexico. These fires could quickly approach and cross the border in a few days if not sooner without warning especially if not home. Often time is needed to fill water tanks, evacuate animals, get a generator (sold out at Home Depot yesterday) before power is cut by SDG&E. Please continue to keep us up to date and encourage CalFire to list and inform the public of fires near east County as well as the press does for Coastal San Diego.