Thailand — Two forestry employees were burned to death in the northeastern province of Chaiyaphum yesterday while they were trying to douse a rapidly spreading forest fire in the Tabor-Huay Yai wildlife sanctuary. Prasit Sonprasert, 68, and Rungthong Soisri, 18, were trying to create a firebreak when they were consumed by the intense fire. Eyewitnesses said they were badly burned after being choked by the smoke and died on the way to hospital.
Kitti Teawtrakulwat, chief of the provincial forest fire control office, said around 200 forest fires had broken out in the province over the past three months, ravaging over 20,000 rai of forest cover.
The office is facing a severe shortage of staff and is not in a position to control the fires, especially when they break out at several spots at the same time, he said, adding that most forest fires were caused by poachers of wild animals and flora.
Saran Jaisa-ard, director of the National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department’s forest protection and fire control office, said this year’s forest fire situation is not expected to be as serious as last year, when a total of 117,395 rai were damaged.
This was due to the high humidity brought in by the La Nina phenomenon. The office will have to closely monitor the situation until the end of the dry season in April, said Mr Saran.
The department has instructed its officials to be on the alert for forest fires and other natural disasters since the global climate is becoming more difficult to predict. This means unexpected incidents could occur anytime.