INDONESIA – The forest fire at Tlaga Tiling, Mount Lawu, has started to die down, leaving one hot spot to be put out.
Hundreds of climbers who were previously trapped around the peak have been safely evacuated from the area.
“The situation is relatively safe. There’s only one hot spot at petak [area] 63A RPH [Forest Resort Manager] Nglerak BKPH [Forest Functionary Office] in North Lawu,” said Bambang Djatmiko, head of the Karanganyar Disaster Mitigation Agency (BPBD), on June 20.
A similar statement was expressed by Edy Saryono, head of North Lawu’s forest functionary office. “The total width of damaged forest area is around 1.5 kilometers. Some of it is bush and pine forest,” Edy said.
Bambang further explained that there were no climbers trapped on the mountain as the hot spot is 5 km away from the trails. Dozens of climbers were trekking down from the peak, while Perhutani closed off the trails from Candi Cetho, Cemoro Kandang and Cemoro Sewu.
“All trails are closed until the situation is safe. We are currently focusing to localize the fire so it won’t spread to the drinking water pipes or houses,” said Bambang.
The BPBD has not yet determined the cause of fire, but they suspect it was caused by locals who were igniting charcoal. The BPBD also urged people to be careful in doing any activities involving fire, as it is considered high risk, especially during the dry season.
“Dozens of volunteers are still on the mountain, localizing the blaze manually by digging up the ground and cutting the bushes near the hot spot,” said Bambang.
One of the climbers, Agus Setyawan, said he had heard about the fire from the volunteers in the middle of their journey to the top. But he and other climbers could not directly return as it was dark and hazy.
“We took a break around the third post, but all of our belongings had been packed up,” said Agus. “We decided to climb down in the morning alongside other climbers.”
One of the volunteers, Eko Supardi, said there were still 50 climbers whose whereabouts were still unknown as of Wednesday afternoon. He stated that 250 climbers came up through Candi Cetho trail on Tuesday. Following the news about the fire, he and other volunteers traveled up to evacuate climbers at the second and third posts. (wir/wng)