Indonesia –– During the transition between the dry and wet seasons, wildfires have hit around 50 hectares of forest reserve on the slopes of the second highest volcano in Bali, Mt. Batur in Bangli regency.
Only a few weeks ago wildfires struck the islands most sacred mountain, Mt. Agung in Karangasem, this time they have been sweeping across Mt. Baturs forested areas since Tuesday afternoon.
Dozens of hot spots were visible in the western and southern parts of the mountain, around 2 kilometers from Yeh Mampeh hamlet in Batur Selatan village. In this area, the fires have only affected dry bushes.
Wayan Sugiarta, chief executive of Bangli Disaster Management Agency (BPBD), spoke with Bali Daily on the phone on Wednesday morning saying that he had no idea what the main source of the fires was.
Residents reported the fires to the Batur forest guards on Tuesday afternoon at 3 p.m. We received the report two hours later at 5 p.m., Sugiarta said.
The forest guards, together with the locals, had tried in vain to extinguish the fires manually. However, the agency eventually decided to stop their efforts until Wednesday morning.
The agency deployed a joint rescue team consisting of 346 personnel from Bangli Search and Rescue team, paramedics from the Red Cross, members of the army and police, and members of Bali Disaster Response Agency (Tagana). All of the team members climbed the mountain to reach the hot spots and try to manually extinguish the wildfires.
Helps also came from Badung Disaster Management Agency and Karangasem Disaster Management Agency.
It took around one and half to two hours to reach the hot spots, located in a hilly area.
Equipped with a limited number of fire extinguishers (11) and traditional tools, the team worked extremely hard to prevent the fires from spreading to the nearby forest. Some of the firefighters used the traditional methods of digging ditches and smothering the flames with tree branches.
The strong wind and hot, dry weather has spread the fires to other areas, Sugiarta said.
Until Wednesday afternoon, several areas were still in flames. We have not yet evacuated residents of Yeh Mampeh to a safer place as the fires are still located 2 kilometers from their homes, he said.
The rescue and firefighting team had to stop their operations as it got darker and foggy in the affected areas.
Mt. Batur and Lake Batur have just recently been declared a Geopark by UNESCO for their historical, geological, archaeological, cultural and natural importance.
The amazing volcanic crater is believed to have been formed around 22,000 years ago. Mount Batur, an active volcano, has erupted 22 times since the 1800s.
The team will continue trying to extinguish the fires on Thursday [today] morning and I hope that the fires do not spread to other areas, Sugiarta said.