Kenya — Menengai Forest in Nakuru County has lost nearly 400,000 acres to fire break outs in the past four weeks that is yet to be contained.
Nakuru County Natural Resources, Environment, Water and Energy Executive Officer Richard Rop said it is the fourth time the forest has experienced incidences of fire in a span of one month.
Speaking at the forest on Friday afternoon accompanied by other county members who combined efforts with members of the public and KFS officers to put out the fire, Rop said the fire has been spreading fast following dry spell experienced in the region.
” Fire begun in five places and has been spreading fast due to prolonged dry spell and windy weather,” said Rop.
The main challenge in containing the fast spreading fire is lack of improvised fire fighting machines as most of them are out of order.
The county government fire fighting vehicle was involved in a road accident few weeks ago while the Kenya Pipeline that has been requested to assist, has mechanical problem according to Rop.
Kenya Army has been asked by the county to help in setting out the fire that is feared to spread to residential areas.
Terrain of the forest has also affected their efforts due to mountains and valleys.
” Fire fighting machines for county government and Kenya pipeline are out of order and we are currently depending on KFS employees and community residing along the forest while we wait for assistance from Kenya Army,” said Rop.
Rop pointed that the county is working on quick strategies of stopping fire menace that has left sections of Tururu, Bahati and Koibatek forests burnt. Nearly 2,800 hectares of forests in Rift Valley region have been destroyed by fire in the past three weeks according to KFS officials.
Speaking in Nakuru last Wednesday, KFS Acting Director Emilio Mugo said Mau complex is the most affected, as parts of its 22 blocks especially in areas around East Mau in Narok, Kericho, Sururu, Olpisimoru, Londiani and Koibatek having been burnt.
Mugo asked saw millers in Baringo, Koibatek, Molo and Elbergon to suspend their activities and help fight the fires.
Following the fire breaks, the executive officer has directed KFS to be vigil, have surveillance and arrest any suspicious forest intruders.
“People residing along the forest should help in fighting the fire among other maintenance efforts and those found loitering without authority should be upheld,” Rop directed.
To combat forest fires, he said county government is working on establishing firebreaks and forest boundaries. According to him, the firebreaks will be maintained on regular basis to stop fires from spreading in between plantations and from neighbouring settled reserves.
Joseph Kinyajui KFS employee on his part said it was the first time the forest has reported more cases of fire incidences that impact negatively on wild animals residing in the area.
Kinyanjui said the main challenge in containing the fires is lack of modern fire fighting machines saying currently, they are using tree branches that are not effective.
“We are forced to use tree branches in fighting the fire due to lack of equipment, this affect our health due to flames produced.
There is also one vehicle that is not enough to supply water in case of fire breaks,” he observed.
He also attributed the challenges to poor roads network in accessing the forest that has seen most volunteers walk to the peak of the forest. According to him, the fire might have been caused by residents who graze their livestock in the forest during the prolonged dry spell.
“Cause of fire that has burnt continuously for the last fourteen days is yet to be established but it is suspected the incidences are caused by cigarette smokers while grazing their animals following the dry season,” he observed.