Sh8 billion bamboo lost in Mt Kenya Forest fire

Sh8 billion bamboo lost in Mt Kenya Forest fire

20 March 2012

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Kenya– The fire ravaging parts of Mt Kenya forest has consumed bamboo trees in Chogoria and Chuka whose value is estimated to be more than Sh8 billion.

This is besides loss of other vegetation and the reduction of water catchment areas in the 800-hectare area on fire.

Speaking to the media in his office on Monday, the Head of Eastern Forest Conservancy Mr Samuel Ihure said the fire, which they suspected to have been started by arsonists, had occasioned both environmental and economic loss.

“The outbreaks are in funny patterns that have made Kenya Forestry Service (KFS) rule out accidental fires. The fire is spreading at intervals of three kilometres away from the direction of the wind, which would not be the case if the fire was started by honey harvesters or cigarette butts from campers,” said Ihure.

According to Ihure, it is possible to predict the direction of fire in case of accidental fires, but hard in the case of arson as has been suspected of the current fires.

Fresh outbreaks

The forestry officer said KFS was relieved by showers of rain in parts of Chogoria, which put out an inferno that threatened to raze down a forest lodge there.

“The lodge, which is used by tourists before climbing Mt Kenya, is now safe,” he said.

As of Monday morning, Ihure said a fresh fire outbreak had been reported in Ithanguni Hills, which is moorland within the Mt Kenya forest, but added they had deployed officers and fire fighters on the ground to monitor the situation.

Another outbreak in parts of Silmon Ontulili was also put out before it became uncontrollable.

KFS is facing hurdles in fighting the fire because of inaccessibility of the forests since there are no roads.

Separately, firefighters in Aberdares National Park continue to struggle to put out raging flames that have been consuming the park for four days now.

The team of officers from Kenya Forest Service, Kenya Wildlife Service and the Army, assisted by the local community, are yet to manage the fire as it is spreading fast due to strong winds blowing on the park’s moorland area, about 4000 feet above sea level.

The team spent the better part of Monday trying to put out the fire but was overwhelmed by its intensity.

According to the region Head of Central Highland Conservancy John Wachihi, the fire has consumed more than 500 hectares of forest cover.

However, Wachihi was optimistic that the fire will be managed soon, adding that there were signs of possible rains that could boost the efforts.

He described the park and conservancy as a major natural resource and water tower that feeds Nairobi with more than 80 per cent of its water and which also contributes about 70 per cent of hydropower apart from supporting agriculture within the region.

During Monday’s exercise, the fire-fighting team had to trek for more than ten hours to reach the scene of the fire but was forced to retreat due to the harsh conditions as they await reinforcement from other forces.

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