QUITO, Ecuador - Authorities evacuated about 100 families from the slopes of a volcano in central Ecuador which began showering villages with flaming rocks and ash last month.

Firefighters, police and civil defense officials conducted a voluntary evacuation because of the Tungurahua volcano's intensifying activity, Jorge Arteaga, director of Ecuador's Red Cross rescue squad, told Radio Quito on Monday.

The 16,575-foot volcano, whose name means "throat of fire" in the Quechua language, shot a 1.2-mile plume of ash into the sky on Feb. 12.

Santiago Arellano, a technician at Ecuador's Geophysics Institute, told The Associated Press that Tungurahua is registering its most intense activity since it erupted last August, killing four people and destroying or severely damaging nearly 5,000 homes.

Arellano said Monday that an eruption is not imminent, but warned the volcano's activity could increase within hours. The volcano is located about 85 miles south of the capital of Quito.