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Fires in Machu Picchu
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Are there fires in Machu Picchu?

Since its construction, the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu has suffered fires of various scales. During the Spanish invasion, for example, the Temple of the Sun caught fire. In 2018, a small forest fire occurred in the area surrounding the Inca city. The fire was put out a few days later, thanks to the Cusco fire team.



Vista de la ciudad inca de Machu Picchu
The Inca City of Machu Picchu

Since its discovery in 1911, a fire has never occurred inside the archaeological site of Machu Picchu. However, fires often occur in the towns that live around the place. The reason? Most of the time they are caused involuntarily by the peasants. All fires are put out within a few days.


How many hectares does Machu Picchu cover?


Can fires occur in Machu Picchu?

  • Fires are very unlikely in Machu Picchu.
  • Since its discovery in 1911, no fire has been recorded within the archaeological site.
  • The Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is at greater risk of suffering forest fires. However, these do not affect tourism in the Inca archaeological site in any way.

Why do fires occur in Machu Picchu?

  • Most cases of fires in Machu Picchu are caused inadvertently by local farmers who burn their land to plant other agricultural products.
  • Peruvian authorities continuously carry out awareness campaigns among the peasants of the towns near Machu Picchu.

Is Machu Picchu safe in case of fires?

  • Machu Picchu is a site protected by the Peruvian State, so there are regulations that prohibit the burning of surrounding fields. This makes a future fire in the Inca city almost impossible.
  • If a fire occurs, the archaeological site of Machu Picchu is protected by security personnel in case of accidents. They are trained to safeguard the integrity of both tourists and archaeological monuments.

Are there firefighters in Machu Picchu?

  • The town of Machu Picchu does not have a nearby fire station. In the event of a fire, the closest firefighters are in the city of Cusco.
  • The entity in charge of combating this type of emergency is the Sernanp (National Service of Natural Areas Protected by the State).
Bomberos Machu Picchu
Group of people who helped put out the 2018 fire in Machu Picchu

What species of flora and fauna can be affected by fires?

In the event of fires at Machu Picchu, the flora and fauna of the Historic Sanctuary may suffer serious damage:

  • Spectacled bear – Species of bear native to the tropical forests of South America. It is famous for its black spots on the eyes (they look like glasses).
  • Orchids – Plant with species of various colors and shades. They are mainly distinguished by their bilateral symmetry. In Machu Picchu there are more than 400 species.
  • Cock of the Rock – Bird native to the tropical forests of South America, whose male has a very beautiful black and orange color. It was declared the national bird of Peru.
  • Vizcachas – Rodent of the Andes Mountains that feed mainly on herbs. They mainly inhabit altitude regions. In Machu Picchu, they can be seen during the Inca Trail.
  • Sachacabras – Small cervid mammal that inhabits the jungle brow of the Andes Range, in South America. It possesses horns and small ears. It can be seen at the Historical Sanctuary of Machu Picchu.
  • Molles – Tree species cultivated in abundance throughout the Andes Mountains. This species can reach 15 meters high. It is cultivated in abundance in the surroundings of Machu Picchu.
  • Eucalyptus – Tree with more than 700 species distributed in the world. It is widely used in the towns that surround Machu Picchu. It can reach up to 60 meters in height. Its leaves are used as decongestants.

Cases of fires near Machu Picchu

Forest fire in Collpani 2019

  • In August 2019, a forest fire occurred in the Collpani sector of the Aguas Calientes district. The flames spread over 20 hectares, however, they did not affect the archaeological site of Machu Picchu at all. The fire was extinguished without problems. This one was inadvertently started on the property of a local farmer.

Forest fire 5 kilometers from Machu Picchu in 2018

  • In September 2018, a medium-sized forest fire occurred 5 kilometers from the archaeological site of Machu Picchu. The smoke affected the normal tour of tourists through the Inca city. The fire was controlled after 2 days and only affected the grasslands and eucalyptus trees in the area.

Forest fire on the Ollantaytambo – Machu Picchu train line in 2017

  • In October 2017, a forest fire occurred near the Cusichaka sector, on the Ollantaytambo – Machu Picchu train line. The fire did not affect any archaeological remains, only the wild grasslands of the area. The transit of tourists to Machu Picchu was not affected during the few days that the fire lasted.
Fuego en Machu Picchu
Damage caused by a fire near the historic sanctuary of Machu Picchu

Safety recommendations in Machu Picchu

  • Among the things that you cannot take to Machu Picchu are any object that could cause open fire that could threaten the integrity of the structures of the Inca city.
  • If a fire occurs in the surroundings of Machu Picchu, collaborate with the firefighters and the personnel in charge of these emergencies. They are trained to act in emergency situations.
  • Under any circumstances, do not use lighters or cigarettes inside the archaeological site. These objects are prohibited in Machu Picchu.
  • Inside the archaeological site of Machu Picchu there are exit and evacuation signs in case of emergencies. Calmly obey the instructions and evacuate the Inca site in the event of a fire.

Questions and answers about emergencies in Machu Picchu

  • 1) What emergencies can happen in Machu Picchu?

    Machu Picchu is a safe place. However, in its remote sectors fires can occur due to the agricultural activities of the inhabitants of Cusco.

  • 2) Have there been fires in Machu Picchu?

    Yes, in 2017, 2018 and 2019 forest fires occurred in areas far from the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu. These fires were put out in a timely manner.

  • 3) Can Machu Picchu close for emergencies?

    Yes, emergencies can and have caused the unexpected closure of Machu Picchu. In 2020, for example, the health emergency due to Covid 19, kept the archaeological site closed for about 1 year.

  • 4) Are there safe areas in Machu Picchu?

    Yes, Machu Picchu possesses evacuation areas in case of emergencies.

  • 5) What is not allowed to take to Machu Picchu?

    In Machu Picchu it is not allowed to carry cigarettes, lighters and any instrument that can cause fires. It is also not allowed to carry material that threatens the integrity of people or the Inca archaeological site.

  • 6) Is Machu Picchu safe to go with kids?

    Yes, Machu Picchu is a place allowed for people of all ages. Children can enjoy an outdoor history tour.

  • 7) What is the biggest danger in Machu Picchu?

    Machu Picchu has areas close to precipices but that have ropes and implements to ensure the safety of the visitor. However, the greatest danger is height and the effect on people’s physiques, especially for older adults.

  • 8) Can a fire happen during my visit to Machu Picchu?

    As in any part of the world, fires in Machu Picchu can occur. However, the authorities have adopted several precautionary and guidance measures for visitors and local residents.

 

By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last updated, October 10, 2022