KENYA – A wildfire that broke out in Ontulili Forest in the Mount Kenya ecosystem on Monday has already consumed more than 100 acres of the moorland vegetation.
The fire was first reported in the mixed indigenous forest in Kiambogo, Meru County before spreading to the moorland where it is still wreaking havoc.
A statement from the office of chief conservator stated that officers from Kenya Forest Service (KFS), Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and members of the community forest association are fighting the fire that is spreading very fast due to strong winds and dry vegetation.
“Our officers, those from KWS and members of the community are battling the fire to [prevent] more loss,” read the statement.
The fire comes barely three weeks after another inferno consumed more than150, 000 hectares of the precious water tower, mostly on the moorland and bamboo vegetation.
At least 610 firefighters, among them 490 Kenya Defence Forces soldiers, were involved in putting out the fire for almost a month.
Spontaneous eruption of fire prompted Tharaka-Nithi County security team led by County Commissioner Beverly Opwora to ban any human activity in the conservancy until rains fall.
The officers expressed concerns that due to the prolonged drought, more fire incidences were likely to be reported if people freely accessed the forest.
Intruders, among them honey gatherers and hunters, have been frequently blamed for the outbreaks.
In Mt Kenya, foresters believe some residents have been torching the forest in the belief that it would attract rain and end drought.
Studies also show that that forests around the world are now threatened by climate change, mainly due to prolonged droughts on which wildfires thrive.
Speaking to the Nation, Joseph Mutembei, a tour guide in Mt Kenya National Park said their business has been completely paralysed due to the ban.
“We have been idle since the imposition of the ban and we are worried that we may not resume work soon because the fire incidences are continuing to be reported and drought is still on,” said Mr Mutembei.
He urged government to come up with another strategy of ensuring that those accessing the conservancy are not a threat to it instead of imposing a total embargo.
“We are not a threat to Mt Kenya National Park because it is our source of livelihood,” he said.