Forest wildfires in the Philippines are all human-caused (carelessness, negligence, accident and incendiary). There have been no known wildfires caused by lightning (Fig.1). There were 290 forest fires (Fig.2) which occurred during the calendar year 1995, the majority or 52% of them being of undetermined origin or unknown cause (Fig.1). About 197 forest fires or 68% occurred in the central and northern part of the country.
A total of 10,710 hectares were burned/damaged by wildfires from January to June 1995 (Fig.2). Mostly plantation forests were damaged/burned which accounted for 7,285 hectares; grasslands, 2,055 hectares; and natural forest stands, 1,370 hectares (Fig.3). The month of March is the peak of the fire season. There were 104 fire incidents with 4,127 hectares burned/damaged. Followed by April which registered 65 fire incidents with 2,279 hectares burned/damaged (Fig.2).
Normally, the dry or fire season starts from January up to June or six months every year except when an “El Niño” phenomenon or other drought occur, thus prolonging the dry spell that may even trigger more forest wildfires. But for this particular year 1995, the early onset of the rainy season greatly reduced the occurrence of wildfires and gave relief to fire management officers and firefighters.
Programs/Activities in Forest Fire Management for CY 1995
Institutionalization of the Multi-Sectoral Forest Protection Committees (MFPC’s) within the DENR system
The MFPCs are composed of representatives from various sectors of the community such as other government organizations (OGAs) and non-government organizations (NGOs) and institutions who come and join together to be partners in government forest protection efforts.
Oplan “Matang Lawin” (Eagles Eye): A Memorandum of Agreement entered into by and among the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Science and Technology (DOST), Department of Transportation and Communication (DTC) through the Air Transportation Office (ATO), Philippine Air Lines, Inc. (PAL), Federation of Aviation Organization (FAO), Air Line Pilots Association of the Philippines (ALPAP) and Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association of the Philippines (AOPAP) for the protection and conservation of the country’s natural resources through the conduct of aerial monitoring and surveillance of any environmentally destructive activities and disaster on the ground and reporting of potential violation of environmental laws.
Fig.1. Causes of forest fires in the Philippines in 1995
Fig.2. Monthly summary of fire occurrence and area burned incalendar year 1995
Fig.3. Types and area of ground cover burned in the Philippinesin 1995
Fig.4. Area burned annually by wildfires in the Philippines1990-1995 (will be added later)
Information, Education and Communication (IEC): Public information campaigns were carried out in the rural communities during summer, particularly in fire prone areas to create awareness and instill discipline on the proper use of fire as a tool in forest management. Fire prevention campaigns were conducted in the rural areas expounding on the positive influences of forests on the microclimate, of their effect in reducing soil erosion, as well as on the potential negative effects of fire.
Organization, training and development of fire fighting crews: Fire Fighting crews were organized in the DENR field offices. They were given training on the theoretical and practical phases of fire management. During the dry season, they were dispatched and deployed in the critical and/or fire prone areas.
Procurement of firefighting hand tools and communication facilities: Gradual purchases of the tools and communication facilities was resorted due to limited funds in forest fire management.
Procurement of a helicopter to support forest protection and fire control: Funds for the acquisition of an aircraft (helicopter) for forest fire protection and fire control was allocated in 1995 and the plan of procurement was approved in the same year. The procurement was realigned in June 1996. The helicopter was equipped with an ISOLAIR capable of water or foam bombing use on initial attack as well as to ferry/transport two 5-men firefighting crews.
From: Demetrio L. Bartolazo Forest Fire Management Specialist Address: Forest Management Bureau Department of Environment and Natural Resources Visayas Avenue, Diliman Quezon City THE PHILIPPINES