Yesterday morning at dawn, I saw two columns of smoke in the distance. Within an hour the smoke turned into a cloud that moved with the wind. The amount of smoke looked larger than I would have expected from a small rubbish fire.
The smell of smoke was fairly strong in the air and both the smell and the amount of smoke grew over the day. The winds are generally brisk and by midday the smoke from one of the fires extended for about five kilometres down a valley and towards the ocean. As the sun set the smoke was replaced by flames that crept down the valley. I was up at about 1 AM and the flames were still visible but less intense. By dawn the flames were gone and there was no visible smoke.
The area engulfed by the largest fire and the spread down the valley with the prevailing wind suggested to me that the fire was out of control. Accidental fires are likely common. There is no garbage service and refuse is burned on the property. Yesterday I drove by a large bonfire on the side of the road and there was no one attending the fire. This is the dry season and I imagine that some of these fires get out of control. Intentional fires are a common method to clear land in preparation for planting. There is no fire department and when either a refuse fire or a crop-clearing fire get out of control, the fires are obliged to burn out.
I shuddered to think about people who might have lived in the valley the flames engulfed. Presumably they would move out of harms way, but their possessions, some of their livestock, and the indigenous fauna might not escape.
I checked for any news reports of fires in the region and of course there were no reports. What occurred to me is that a small community could disappear in the mountains and that these incidents might escape the attention of the local authorities.