A fire of unknown origin threatened the Ollantaytambo archaeological park this weekend, alarming authorities, locals, and tourists alike.
According to El Comercio, flames first appeared in the area last Tuesday, but successful containment efforts by local authorities were able to control the fire by Thursday.
However, strong winds caused the fire to re-ignite later in the week. “We saw how the fire was moving towards the runs, but it stayed about 50 meters away. There was this huge smoke cloud that covered everything. The hill has been totally burnt, the fire even burn a telecommunications antenna. But luckily, it’s been controlled,” local resident José Manuel Rabanal told El Comercio.
The fire’s proximity to the ruins at Ollantaytambo was a cause of concern, both because of potential damage to the site and because of the large tourist presence there at the time of the fire. According to El Comercio, authorities evacuated hundreds of visitors to the site.
Though the exact cause of the fire is unknown at this time, El Comercio reports that it may have been started by farmers intending to perform a controlled burn of fields in order to re-seed for the season. Manolo Chávez, head of the Sacred Valley Chamber of Tourism, told El Comercio that the response to the fire could have been handled better: “It wasn’t that the response was late, just that the fires overpowered us. What can we do? Well, I recommend that we invest in specialized personnel and buy equipment, like helicopters.”
Ollantaytambo is located approximately 60 kilometers northwest of Cusco and is a frequent stop for tourists visiting the Sacred Valley. 50 hectares of land near the site were burned in the wildfire.Fire at popular tourist site in the Sacred Valley near Cusco caused great alarm.