Forest fire guts watershed

Forest fire guts watershed

26 March 2014

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Philippines — Fire raged through the forests of this landlocked province in the past few days, destroying hundreds of hectares of trees and threatening to engulf undisturbed watersheds in one of the highest peaks in the country, officials said on Tuesday.

Gov. Leonard Mayaen said residents formed long lines from the river to the fire passing pails of water and using plants with thick leaves as fire wall to prevent it from spreading.

“Fire is under control,” Mayaen said. “The sudden downpour last Monday helped put it out. We go back to square one in our efforts to reforest the mountain.”

Investigators were looking into the cause of the fire and extent of the damage, which was estimated to exceed more than one hundred hectares. During the hot summer months, a cigarette thrown into a pile of dry leaves and twigs could result in flames.

The fire gutted the inner portion of Mt. Kalawitan, one of the highest peaks in the country. Next to it are more than 200 hectares of virgin forests in the boundaries of Bauko, Mountain Province; Buguias, Benguet; and Hungduan, Ifugao.

Mayaen called on the people to police their areas and observe discipline in throwing cigarette butts especially on dried materials and avoid starting a fire that can spread out of control.

“The green scenery and vegetative cover of our mountains attract tourists to come to our province. We should take care and show concern for our forested mountains,” Mayaen said.

Bauko Mayor Abraham Akilit lashed out at forest guards in the towns of Bontoc and Sabanagan for their inability to control the fire that spread to Mt. Kalaitan and even reached the periphery of Mt. Data, the tallest peak in the area.

“The fire should have been put out in Sabangan if there was a fire line put up by Bantay Gubat guards,” Akilit said.

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