Uganda — The police fire brigade and the privately owned K-Fire Crew on Friday spent more than two hours battling a wild forest fire that gutted one of the largest tree plantations in Lira district.
The fire ate through a considerably large portion of the 86 acres of dense forest which has mature eucalyptus, pines and tic trees belonging to Tom Apunyo.
Apunyo, one of the regions dominant tree planters, will feel the weight of the heavy financial losses incurred, although he later told New Vision he could not immediately establish the extent of the destruction.
It was one of his workers that notified about the fire outbreak, prompting him to rush to the area police for the fire brigade.
But all that while, the fire which residents said had started at around 1pm local time (EAT), was spreading fast.
When we reached here we found it had caused a lot of destruction, said Apunyo.
Firefighters worked with local volunteers to try to control the inferno, whose cause, according to Apunyo, had not been established yet.
When asked if it could be the work of an arsonist or perhaps simply human error, the forest owner was clearly clueless.
Only God knows, he said.
The forest is located about 4km in Ngetta sub-county on Kitgum road.
The men trying to extinguish the ferocious fire came face to face with a number of obstacles. They ran short of water a number of times, which would give the inferno more time to spread. Winds were not helping either.
Volunteers, who lacked firefighting equipment, resorted to using tree branches to put out the fire.
Thomas Okello, one of the firefighters with K-Fire Crew, said they managed to save the forest but said about half of it had already been devastated.
We could have done much but because of the poor planning that did not have provision for fire trucks to enter the forest, many of the trees in the heart of the forest were burnt, Okello said.
The burnt forest is one of the biggest sources of electricity poles in the region as evidenced by hundreds of poles undergoing curing at different positions in there.
Last year around this time of the year, the former minister of Lands, Housing and Urban development, Daniel Omara Atubo lost dozens of acres of pine trees, cassava gardens and orchards to a fire that was reportedly set by an arsonist.