Taiwan: Forest fires under control, officials report
Central News Agency, 15 November 2004
A forest fire in the Lishan and Tayuling areas in mountainous central Taiwan has been brought under temporary control, sources from the Tungshih Forestry Management Department reported yesterday afternoon.
The fire, which broke out simultaneously in four places late Saturday afternoon, had engulfed nearly nine hectares of state forest as of noon yesterday, the sources said.
Police, who are continuing their investigations into the cause of the fire, have not ruled out the possibility of arson.
The area ravaged by fire contains mainly Taiwan red pine and yellow cedar, which are both systematically cultivated around Taiwan’s mountainous areas, said Chen Yi-huang, director of the Tungshih Forestry Management Department.
Department officials were alerted about the fire at about 7 p.m. Saturday and immediately mobilized 57 firefighters to try to contain the fire in the woods located about 2,400 meters above sea level, Chen said.
About 100 more firefighters were rushed to the scene during yesterday morning, while a firefighting helicopter was also dispatched, with the fire being brought under control by about noon yesterday, according to the forestry management director.
Tungshih Forestry Management Department officials said they strongly suspect that the fire was started by farmers who had been informed by the National Forestry Bureau in recent months that if they failed to plant 600 trees per hectare under a forestation project, their leased lands would be taken back by the government and all orchards and crops on any leased land taken back by the government are to be destroyed.
A group of farmers staged a protest in front of the Tungshi Forestry Management Department November 11 and appealed to the government for more lenient measures and a longer grace period.