Residents give State agencies a helping hand to tame forest fires

Residents give State agencies a helping hand to tame forest fires

08 February 2011

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Kenya — Sporadic fires continued on Tuesday in key Nyandarua and Laikipia forests highly regarded as water catchment areas and home to a variety of wildlife.

NATION Residents of Watuka, Ebaringo and Endarasha assist the Kenya Forest Service
and Kenya Wildlife Service to battle a fire at the Aberdare Range on Monday.
The fire, that started on Sunday, destroyed large swathes of grazing land.
The cause of the fire had not been established by press time.

Laikipia County zonal manager William Cheptoo and his Nyandarua counterpart Benjamin Kinyili said fire-fighting teams working with volunteer scouts were patrolling Ndaragwa, Aberdare and Rumuruti forests where fires destroyed more than 500 hectares of grassland and tree plantations.

Mr Cheptoo said drought and strong winds had adversely affected the ability to fight the fires that destroyed 120 hectares of grassland and 45 hectares of indigenous forest in Rumuruti forest, which is the home of 300 elephants and other game.

Mr Kinyili said barazas were being held across Nyandarua to encourage communities living on forest edges to respond to distress calls by forest rangers fighting fires.

Start of season

“We are educating them that if they detect fire, we should be informed immediately so that we can send fire-fighting teams. We are liaising with the Kenya Wildlife Service to monitor fires in Aberdare National Park and around Aberdare Ranges which was recently fenced off at a cost of Sh700 million,” he said.

Mr Cheptoo and Mr Kinyili, who have announced the start of the fire season in the two counties, called on security agencies, forest rangers and residents to be on the lookout for forest blazes.

On Tuesday, the Kenya Wildlife Service declared the Aberdare Mountain Range safe after the weekend fires were all extinguished.

Assistant director Robert Njue, toured the water tower yesterday morning before announcing that all the fires had been contained.

Rangers from the KWS and Kenya Forest Service and community volunteers who had been fighting one of the bigger fires near Satima peak since Sunday only managed to contain it on Monday.

The KWS deployed two planes to coordinate efforts to fight the fire and supply food and equipment to the fire-fighters.

Mr Njue said another fire destroying vegetation on the Shamata side of the mountain had been put out by rangers and residents.

Meanwhile, the KFS in Nyeri has recalled officers on leave and cancelled all planned leave in case of outbreak of forest fires.

Rangers have also been instructed to stay at their stations around the clock until the fire danger season is over, Nyeri zonal manager Muchiri Mathinji said.

“The dry weather has resulted in the drying of vegetation which has put forest estates at risk of fire,” he said in a circular.

Farmers living near forests and community forest associations have been asked to avoid setting vegetation on their farms or in forest reserves on fire and to respond to distress calls without delay.

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