WildlandFire on Cape Verdean Islands

18 June 2004

On a request from UN-FAO the GFMC compiled the following Information:

Latest Satellite Scenes:

13 June 2004
12:15 hrs

 Burning Fires and smoke can be seen on this MODIS scene on the island of Fogo.

13 June 2004
15:15 hrs

 Burning Fires and smoke can be seen on this MODIS scene on the island of Fogo.

Wild fires destroy Cape Verdean forest area

Praia, Cape-Verde, 06/16 – Wild fires have destroyed 60% out of 500 hectares of forests in the Monte Velha area, Mosteiros district, in the Cape Verdean island of Fogo over the past few days.
The blaze, which was ultimately extinguished by Monday afternoon, started last Saturday afternoon and was put out the same day in the evening. However, the fire rekindled again Sunday morning due to heavy winds.
The fire spread rapidly in the afternoon, attaining a height of up to 10 metres despite the population`s quick intervention.
According to an official at the ministry of agriculture, Joao Gonçalves, the population struggled to put down the fire during the entire weekend.
The flames, which were threatening the cultivated areas, were finally stopped following vigorous efforts by local dwellers backed by 46 elements from the national civil protection service and fire fighters.
Fire fighters had to be sent from Praia because no fire brigade exists in Mosteiros district.
The Monte Venhaa forest, which was planted in the 1940s and the do Pico volcano, which erupted in 1994, constitute Fogo Island`s main tourist attractions.
The 500-hectare forest is densely covered with eucalyptus, pines, and other plant species.
It is estimated that half of the forest area was gutted by fire. This forest is one of the rare wooded areas in Cape Verde, whose ten islands are overwhelmingly dominated by a mountainous and rocky landscape.

Source: AngolaPress

Fire still has authorities on edge


The resurgence of fires this afternoon in three separate locations in Monte Casa Nobo and two other spots in the zones of Piorno and Chupadeirão placed the Municipal Civil Protection Services at maximum alert in Mosteiros, on the island of Fogo. More than 48 hours after the beginning of what is already being considered one of Mosteiros’ worst natural catastrophes – at approximately noon Saturday the population noticed the flames in the municipality’s forest – the fire has still not been entirely extinguished.

The president of the Mosteiros Emergency Operations and Civil Protection Center is still ill at ease three days after flames consumed more than half of the municipality’s forest. The numbers reflect the dimensions of the disaster that has hit Mosteiros. More than 500 hectares of forest – some 80% of the municipality’s green space – in Monte Velha, Piorno, Brumedjo, Pichopana and Montinho have lost the lively, fresh color of the plants that once covered them. Mosteiros is ash-colored, and a burnt smell hangs in the air. “There were various flashpoints and the fire spread at breakneck speed. Mosteiros has lost its lungs and we’re still not at ease, because fires that were not entirely extinguished have begun to burn again. I’ve even been advised of three more fires in Monte Casa Nobo and others in Piorno and Chupadeirão,” he says.

How the fire began is unknown, but in Mosteiros rumors that the actions of a farmer using traditional burning methods to prepare terrain for planting is behind the catastrophe are gaining force. Police are already questioning farmers, particularly those in Sopé da Lapa, where the fire began, in order to determine responsibilities. “We noticed the flames around 12:30 Saturday. The municipal chamber immediately mobilized the Emergency Operations and Civil Protection Center. We also counted on strong support from the population of the more elevated zones, but because of the rocky terrain and the quantity of dry grass and leaves, together with a certain lack of experience, the fire gained in intensity and got out of control. And we asked Praia for help.”

Mosteiros municipal chamber president Fernandinho Teixeira refutes criticism that he waited too long before calling the central Civil Protection and Defense Ministry services into action. “We called the National Civil Protection Service as soon as we saw that we didn’t have the resources to combat the flames. And there was no delay, because on the 13th, Sunday, at approximately 11 am, when we saw the size of the fire we informed the Defense Minister. That afternoon [Defense Minister] Armindo Maurício, [Minister of Agriculture] Madalena Neves and the directors of the National Civil Protection Service arrived in Mosteiros to see what was being done.”

At the moment, according to Teixeira, the fire has been contained, but permanent vigil is being kept because of the various spots at which the fire has started up again. The work is being carried out by more than 100 people, including military personnel. Fears that the flames could reach the municipality’s coffee plantations have yet to be dispelled, according to Teixeira, considering the speed with which the ashes have spread. “We’re still not relieved. It’s the biggest disaster I’ve seen in the municipality, and not even in 20 years will the forest recover. I believe that we must analyze and adopt proper measures, namely building roads leading to the forest zones – Pai António, Cutelo Alto, Cocho, Monte Velha and Piorno, among others.”

Another important measure highlighted by the mayor is the increase in the number of forest rangers. In his view, the 12 existing rangers are unable to cover all of the forest perimeter. Communication among the rangers also must be improved. “Now more than ever I think that the Mosteiros airstrip has to begin operating again. But also the non-existence of a municipal fire-fighting service is inconceivable on an island like Fogo,” which has an active volcano that last erupted in 1995.

In the meantime, the state of alert is being maintained on Fogo, and international aid has not yet been necessary to combat the worst fire in Mosteiros’ history, although Cape Verde has requested assistance from France and Portugal.

Source: A Semana Online

Monte Velha in flames


A major fire is currently engulfing Monte Velha forest park in the municipality of Mosteiros (Fogo island). The fire began at approximately 11:00 am Saturday in the Lapa zone, and according to Mosteiros municipal chamber president Carlos Fernandinho Teixieira, there are four focal points being combated by the local population and by dozens of military troops who arrived Sunday in the municipality.

The Mosteiros mayor’s major concern is that the fire could spread to the locale’s coffee plantations, one of the municipality’s main economic activities. According to a Defense Ministry source, requests for aid combating the fire have already been made to Portuguese and French authorities. According to the source, a French fire-fighting plane is stationed in Dakar, Senegal, and is currently awaiting the green light from French authorities, who will authorize the plane to fly to Fogo when Cape Verde’s fire fighting capacities are exhausted.

Up until now, more than 60% of the 500-hectare Monte Velha forest, which is part of Fogo Nautural Park, has burned. The zone is entirely forested but borders on farming areas. All indications are that the fire began some 50 meters from Lapa and likely originated from the setting of one of the small fires traditionally used on a number of the country’s islands to clear agricultural areas of dry leaves and plant debris to prepare them for the next farming season.

Coincidentally, the Lapa forest ranger residing at the locale is on vacation. His substitute arrived on Saturday only after the fire had already begun.

Source: A Semana Online

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