Vietnam — VietNamNet Bridge Ba Vi National Park is one of the nine areas across the country that are at serious risk from forest fires, but a lack of awareness among locals is making fire prevention and fighting more difficult, according to local authorities.
The park, a famous ecological tourism zone, is home to more than 900 plant species, 45 animal species and 115 bird species.
Ba Vi District has over 1,700ha of natural forest and an 8,500ha plantation, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development’s Department of Forest Management.
Lack of water
Head of the Ba Vi Forest Management Unit Nguyen Xuan Dung said that there were only a few streams in Ba Vi Forest and the lack of water meant that a fire could spread quickly.
Meanwhile, Nguyen Dinh Tran, head of the Ba Trai Forest Management Station which manages the forest throughout seven mountainous communes, said the main culprits behind forest fires were local residents who did not take enough care when burning land for cultivation or warming their buffaloes.
Workers also often forgot to clean up grass and brushwood which could easily catch fire, he said.
At present the park had 16 teams of forest rangers, but “the number of forest rangers is so few they cannot control all the areas they are responsible for” .
Local commune fire prevention and fighting teams did not receive any payment so it was difficult to call on local residents to help out, he added.
The biggest fire in the park over the past two years was caused by a careless resident. In May this year, a resident failed to fully extinguish a fire he had started to dispose of some grass. The fire spread and destroyed nearly one ha of crops.
Deputy director of the Ba Vi Forest Management Department Nguyen Van Dien said that the department had been working on a number of measures to tackle the issue.
Ten teams of fire prevention and fighting volunteers had been set up in tourist areas throughout the district.
“The teams will attend two training courses about fire prevention and fighting skills in January and November next year,” he said.
Besides rudimentary fire fighting equipment such as poles and long-handled sickles, next year forest rangers would be equipped with lorries to transport water and pumps.
“The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will equip us with 26 giant fans that will be extremely useful in our fight against forest fires,” Dien said.
Another important task was raising local residents’ awareness of fire prevention, he added.
“We set up a team to educate people on fire safety with the participation of some local residents,” said Dien.
Fire safety has also been inserted into local school curriculum to raise awareness..
More than 100 households have been assigned to protect more than 5,000ha of forest with an allowance of VND100,000 ($5) per hectare a year.
“We will try to raise the allowance in future,” Dien said.