Philippines– More than P1 million worth of sugarcane plantation turned to ashes in a forest fire that hit two North Cotabato towns Sunday in what authorities believed caused by cigarettes thrown carelessly by smokers, fire officials said.
The first fire hit a more than two-hectare sugarcane plantation in Barangay Ladtingan, Pikit, North Cotabato, according to Senior Fire Officer 4 Ricardo Chekarin of Pikit Bureau of Fire Protection.
He said the fire believed to have been triggered by lighted cigarette thrown by an unidentified smoker on dried grass beside the plantation at about 10 a.m.
Almost at the same time, another grass fire hit a sugarcane plantation in Barangay Kilada, Matalam, North Cotabato.
According to North Cotabato Fire Marshall Chief Inspector Ibrahim Guiamelon, the grass fire quickly spread to a nearby sugarcane plantation.
Fire fighters successfully prevented the fire from reaching the residential areas.
Guiamelon has appealed to the public, especially smokers, to avoid throwing lighted cigarettes because the surrounding is considered flammable due to the dry spell.
Residents are also advised against burning garbage because it may trigger grass fire.
In Lanao del Sur, the grass fire that hit several hectares of forests in the mountains of Butig were intentional, according to Secretary Kahal Kedtag of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DENR-ARMM)
Kedtag told reporters the bush fire was intentionally carried out by owners to save cost in cutting cogon grass.
Kedtag appealed to lot owners in the region to do away with the traditional kaingin (slash and burn) system because it is very dangerous with the dry spell at its peak in the region.
The ARMM provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi are among the areas experiencing El Nino and corresponding hot weather to last beyond the first quarter of 2016.