International Aid Needed To Fight Forest Fires 3/7/00
Source: Pan African News Agency,(PANA) Date: March 7, 2000
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (PANA) – A six-man international fire emergency advisory group is appealing to the international community to help extinguish forest fires that have been raging in Borena and Bale areas of southern Ethiopia for the past three weeks. Members of the group – three from Germany, two from South Africa and one from the US – made the appeal Monday night in Addis Ababa at a press conference, attended by representatives of western donors, UN agencies and other international organisations. The director of the Global Fire Monitoring Centre at Freiburg in Germany, Johann Goldammer, said the fires were so big to be handled by the country alone. He said that over 70,000 hectares of virgin forest and coffee growing in the wild have already been destroyed and more than 500,000 hectares of forest are threatened unless quick action is taken within 10 days. After flying over the affected areas in helicopter 3-5 March, the group recommended the mobilisation of “national and international efforts in fighting the current fires,” saying that would be an important step toward “a clear commitment to save the endangered forest resources of the country.” Accordingly, the group has recommended that South Africa and Ethiopia provide “minimum” fire suppression crew, helicopters and other essential equipment that are needed for 10-day operations to contain the burning mountain forests. South Africa is to provide four airborne fire supervision crew of up to 6 persons each, one helicopter bucket, one C-206 fire spotter plane, with pilot and aerial fire “boss”, with replacement component, and daily monitoring equipment of fires and weather in case of the expected worsening conditions of the fires. It will also provide such hand tools as 100 rakes, 50 fire beaters and backpack pumps to equip Ethiopian reinforcement personnel. Johanne Heine, leader of the two-man South African team, said that fire fighters are now being mobilised to be deployed in Ethiopia before the end of the week. He, however, stated that South Africa could not spare helicopters for the time being due to their engagement in assisting flood victims in Mozambique. The group further recommended that Ethiopia immediately establish a fire operations base camp, equipped with radio communications and logistical support team. In addition, Ethiopia is to furnish 2 MI-17 helicopters with crew to be trained on-job for fire fighting activities, fuel supply, plus a group of 20 army personnel for aerial crew reinforcement. The total cost of assistance from South Africa for the 10-day operation was estimated at 30,000 US dollars. Assistance envisaged from the international community during the period includes one fire “boss” (incident commander), additional hand tools for ground fire crew, two additional helicopters with crew, four additional fire fighting crew and cash. James Sorenson of the US, who joined the group Monday to assess help to be provided by the US Overseas Disaster Emergency Assistance Division, said satellite-derived fire maps of the forest fires will be made available by Washington.