An eight-day forest fire at the “playground of the gods”, Mount Pulag, in Kabayan town razed 191.54 hectares planted with trees, killing a total of 160,547 trees and saplings under the Expanded National Greening Program (NGP) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Office of Civil Defense- Cordillera Administrative Region and Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council chairman Albert Mogol on Tuesday said the fire started on February 11 which it was only able to contain on February 18.
“The fire started in Sitio Bulok of Barangay Adaoay of said town which spread to Barangay Anchokey in the same town,” Mogol said.
Mogol said the DENR reported that the burned area has a vegetative cover which is mostly “grassland and pine forest located on mountainous terrain, mostly steep to very steep slopes coupled with high exposure, making it extremely fire hazard.”
The report said the fire on the ENGP caused the destruction which is estimated at PHP1,564,230, while also causing destruction to some 643.69 hectares of forest cover valued at PHP106,225 or a total of PHP1,670,455.
Initial reports of Kabayan firemen said the blaze started in Sitios Sacob and Abat of Barangay Adaoay “where there are grazing cows and gardens.”
The OCD, in a report, said “these community livelihood activities are among the suspected causes of forest fires in the Province of Benguet.”
The report also said “the forest fire was aggravated by the biophysical conditions of the area (terrains, heat exposure, wind, etc.), forest fire management of concerned agencies, and the apparent indifference of the community people towards the prevention of forest fires.”
Follow-up investigation of Adaoay barangay captain Roy Tomillas “concluded that there was no definite perpetrator or perpetrators named.”
The village chief’s report also said the investigations lead nowhere due to the “lack of willing witness.”
Due to the fire, the Mount Pulag park management has closed the southern ingress of the Akiki Trail for safety.
The Akiki Trail is one of the paths leading to the peak of the summit.
Meanwhile, in January, the CDRRMC has reactivated its Inter-Agency Task Group for the Reduction of Fire Incidents and Effects of El Nino Phenomenon.
Co-chaired by the DENR and BFP for Cordillera, the task group tries to mitigate and prevent and respond to forest fires.
Cordillera RDRRMC and OCD Cordillera director Albert Mogol has reiterated the importance of partnership and called on the involvement of the community in preventing and fighting forest fires. (PNA)