Firefighters struggle to contain peat blaze

Firefighters struggle to contain peat blaze

03 May 2010

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NARATHIWAT : Firemen are struggling to curb a blaze in peat swamp forests in Yi-ngo district which has been exacerbated by dry weather and winds for five consecutive days.

Firefighters from disaster response and fire control units are working together to reduce burning areas. Of most concern is a peat swamp forest in Ban Talo Miyor which has a “ground fire”, officials said.

Ground fires, which often expand deep under the surface of peat swamp forests, are hard to tackle as water takes a long time to trickle down to fire spots.

More than 30 water trucks have been deployed around the forest to set up fire breaks. However, strong winds yesterday made the job more difficult.

According to latest reports, teams can only control around 60% of the blaze. Officials said about five new fire spots continued to emerge every day, especially in Yi-ngo district.

The fire also reached peat swamp forests in Narathiwat’s Muang, Tak Bai, and Yi-ngo districts five days ago. It has damaged Melaleuca forests, or Pa Samet, which are part of peat swamp forests, and burned more than 2,000 rai of rubber and fruit plantations of farmers.

Peat swamp forests are often found in the deep South, which is the most rain-soaked area of Thailand. The forests, so named because of thick layers of acidic peat caused by non-decomposed leaves and wood, are well known for their waterlogged soil.

However, according to officials, the arid weather has dried many wet areas and brought about the fire.

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