Ecuador asks neighbors for help as forest fires rage round Quito

QUITO (Reuters) - Ecuador called on Latin American neighbors on Tuesday to help it battle forest fires that have forced families to flee some neighborhoods of the capital Quito and its outskirts.

“We’ve been in touch with Venezuela, who will send us a helicopter,” President Rafael Correa told journalists. “We’re contacting Colombia, Peru, and Brazil.”

Three firefighters were killed last week, and around 20 were injured, according to authorities.

Correa said there were 17 major forest fires raging, and the area around Quito, the world’s highest capital city, had been the worst affected. The summer heat and lack of rain had raised the fire hazard in surrounding areas.

The fires had threatened poor neighborhoods, as well as some wealthier residential parts of the city. There were no reliable estimates available on the numbers of people that had been evacuated from their homes, and in some areas families were able to return as the flames retreated.

Authorities have offered rewards of up to $50,000 for information on suspected firebugs, and several people have been arrested.

Reporting by Alexandra Valencia; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore