The fire that affected the Argentine tourist region of Claromeco has been brought under control, although the blaze destroyed 90 percent of the forest reserve there, official said Tuesday.
The flames consumed practically the entire reserve, known as El Vivero, one of the main attractions in an area of Buenos Aires province that is also famous for its beach resorts.
The deputy mayor of the surrounding municipality of Tres Arroyos, Hugo Fernandez, expressed his regret at the destruction of the 3,000-hectare (7,500-acre) reserve, which was much valued for its acacia, eucalyptus, pine and tamarisk trees.
"We're very sad because we cared greatly for it. What hurts us the most is that we always advised the tourists to take great care in handling fire," he told a radio station.
Fernandez said that authorities are considering two hypotheses regarding the start of the fire: "that someone tossed down a cigarette butt or that a car had a very hot exhaust pipe and it set fire to dry grass."
"When the fire occurred, there were winds of between 50 and 60 kilometers per hour (31-37 mph) and the temperature was around 39 C (102 F)," Tres Arroyos Mayor Carlos Sanchez told official news agency Telam.
"That forest is very well attended by tourists, when the days are not good for going to the beach, there are games, grills and places to camp. Now we have to see what shape it's all in," he added.
The advance of the flames forced authorities to evacuate about 3,000 people who had been camping in the area, although all of them were allowed to return shortly afterwards. EFE