Philippines — A fire of still undetermined origin struck a portion of the mystical Mt. Banahaw in Sariaya, Quezon on Wednesday.
In an interview with dzMM radio station past 9 p.m., Dr. Henry Buzar of the Quezon Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the fire hit the Durungawan I viewpoint, which is in the crater area of the national park and protected area.
Buzar said about 20 people climbed the three-peaked active volcano complex hours before the fire hit the mountain, a traditional pilgrimage site. An earlier dzMM report quoted Sariaya police chief Supt. Joel de Mesa as saying that the blaze started past 6 p.m.
Buzar said it could be possible that the dry grass on the mountain caught fire from a candle lit by the pilgrims.
Authorities could not yet determine the extent of the fire and whether there were casualties, according to Buzar. “Hindi makaakyat ang mga tao kasi gabi na at mataas ang bundok [People couldn’t go up there because it’s already dark and the mountain is high].”
Another report from dzMM at 11:17 p.m. said the fire had already burned five hectares of the mountain’s summit and that the flames had become visible from Maharlika Highway.
Buzar said mountaineers would be sent to Banahaw early morning of Thursday. He said the council would also check if it could send a chopper to check on the extent of the blaze.
The fire occurred just a day after another blaze engulfed Mt. Cristobal in Laguna, which is adjacent to Banahaw.
The grass fire, which reportedly burned some 100 hectares of land, started 4 p.m., Tuesday and lasted until dawn Wednesday. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it had received information that reckless bee collectors caused the blaze.