Posted by: calloftheandes | September 27, 2012

Ecuadorians’ Distress Alleviated by Rain, but Fires Quickly Resurge

“Downpour Helps Suffocate Fires,” declared an Ecuadorian newspaper headline while an email subject line of Hermann Schirmacher’s message sent on Friday, Sept. 21, reduced it to one word: “rain.”

Hermann Schirmacher

The accompanying photo showed Schirmacher doing what any drought sufferer might pause for when rain finally falls—watching the rain come down.

“Smoke, fire, helicopters flying over our house all day long,” related Schirmacher, a missionary since the 1990s, first in Peru then in Ecuador.  “The fires in the neighborhood continued, but what a blessing, it rained.”

His message ended as one might end a prayer, with “Thank you, Lord.”

The welcome precipitation ended seven fires that Quito area firefighters were keeping under control, according to a 4 p.m. Friday statement from Quito authorities. The Schirmacher family unpacked the suitcases they’ve had ready at their home in Cumbayá for a possible evacuation.

However, it was a short-lived respite. “Eleven Fires Over the Weekend in Quito” offered a Saturday headline. About noon Sunday fire broke out at in the Tanda sector of Cumbayá, according to El Comercio, a Quito daily. 

A similar cycle had occurred a few days earlier in south Quito (Chillogallo) where firemen, soldiers and police had battled burning grasses and trees for several hours on Wednesday, Sept. 19, until smoke and fog made the work too dangerous. They quit with the blaze 70-percent contained, Fire Chief Washington Arce told El Comercio.

Rain also helped extinguish a fire at San Rafael, but the following day saw the Chillogallo fire reactivate, prompting firefighters to return. Schools suspended classes, and with help from helicopters, the firemen controlled the blaze.

According to the Instituto Nacional de Meteorología y Hydrología (National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology) in Quito, rains will continue to fall in 30- to 45-minute chubascos (heavy showers) as the western part of Ecuador transitions from dry season to rainy season. There were afternoon rains in Quito on two consecutive days (Monday-Tuesday, Sept. 24-25). The average annual rainfall, depending upon the location in the city, is 40 inches.

Sources: HCJB Global, El Comercio



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