Peru‘s firefighters were battling to control a forest fire near the Incan ruins of Machu Picchu on Thursday, as the fire threatened to reach the historic site high up in the Andes. The firebrand, which encompassed an area of roughly half the size of Vatican City, started on Tuesday by farmers burning undergrowth and debris to clear the way for a new planting season.
As of Wednesday, about 20 hectares (49 acres) had been affected by the fire. The mayor of the nearby city of Cusco said that Machu Picchu, a complex of stone structures sitting atop a mountain, was built more than 500 years ago by Incas. The fire’s remoteness has hindered firefighters’ efforts. “We have already been fighting the forest fire for two days and it has not been possible to get it under control, given the area is quite inaccessible,” said Roberto Abarca, director of the Cusco risk management and security office. The breathtaking ruins have made the surrounding Cusco region Peru’s top tourist destination. It was recently named one of the new Seven Wonders of the World by an international organization of travel journalists.