BAGUIO CITY – More than one thousand four hundred twenty hectares of various forests and watershed reservations were ravaged and destroyed by some ninety eight fire incidents that were reported in the different parts of the region from January 1 to May 11, 2023.
Fire Senior Inspector Melchor Medes, public information officer of the Cordillera office of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP-CAR) and concurrent chief of the Tuba fire station, said that the area destroyed by the reported fire incidents this year is much lower compared to the 1,730 hectares of forests that were destroyed by only 32 fire incidents recorded by the bureau during the same period last year.
For this year, he disclosed that Benguet registered the most fire incidents with 53 followed by Mountain Province with 24, Baguio City – 9, Abra – 8, and Ifugao and Kalinga – 2 fire incidents each.
The BFP-CAR information officer claimed that the major cause of the forest fires that transpired in the different parts of the region was the unattended slash and burn garden areas aggravated by the presence of dry leaves and grasses that were gutted by the fires that ravaged the forests and watersheds.
Medes said that the early afternoon rains over the past several days had greatly contributed in containing recent fire incidents that affected some forests in the different parts of the region as it helped in preventing the rapid spread of the fires that might have affected larger areas and greater number of trees in the said forests.
He appealed to farmers engaged in the slash and burn type of gardening to ensure that they put out the fires that they have started once they leave their gardens to avoid the same from spreading and destroying the planted trees near their farms.
According to him, the BFP, in coordination with the different local government units and other concerned stakeholders, continue to conduct information education campaigns in the different parts of the region to ensure that the public will be fully aware on the fire prevention tips to avoid the occurrence of fire incidents that may pose serious threat to life and limb.
He also advised parents to ensure that matches and lighters should be beyond the reach of their children to prevent them from playing with the said materials that could cause the occurrence of fires which might compromise lives and properties.
With the onset of the summer season, the fire officer stipulated that people should observe the needed precautions that will prevent the occurrence of fires as the same could easily spread because of the dryness of the combustible materials that are within their surroundings.
Medes explained that the Cordillera serves as the watershed cradle of Northern Luzon that is why the occurrence of forest fires that destroy the planted trees will definitely affect the region’s status aside from the exposure of the people to soil erosion and landslides due to the absence of trees that hold the same for the overall safety of the public.
Environmentalists advised the public to ensure the establishment of buffer zones by planting plants with broad leaves to contain the rapid spread of fire incidents to the forests in the future.