LA TRINIDAD, Benguet – More than four hundred hectares of various forests in the different parts of the province were recently ravaged by a series of fire incidents that lasted for several days since the middle part of January.
Fire Superintendent Jessie S. Annasiw, provincial fire marshal of the Bureau of Fire Protection – Benguet Provincial Office (BFP-BPO), said that the forest fires were reported in the towns of Atok, Bokod, Itogon and Tuba that resulted to significant damages in the forested areas which had been preserved and protected by the indigenous peoples (IPs) and the concerned local governments.
The forests in Bokod suffered the heaviest damage where more than 155 hectares of watershed were torched into ashes followed by the forested sites in Itogon that incurred damages to more than 137 hectares, Atok with more than 93 hectares of forest cover that were burned and Tuba with more than 10 hectares of forest areas that were ravaged.
He claimed that the cause of the forest fires were unattended burning of garbage and dried materials in various portions of the forested communities that inflicted heavy damages to the forest cover and the mountain slopes.
However, no casualties were reported due to the said forest fires while arson investigators are still ascertaining the extent of damages inflicted by the fires to the forests in the various towns in the province.
The BFP Benguet official expressed his gratitude to the firefighters, volunteers, the Philippine Air Force, the community stakeholders and the barangay fire brigades for their unrelenting and uncompromising efforts that allowed the forest fires to be declared fire out after a number of days of firefighting that were done.
According to him, firefighters had a difficulty in containing the forest fires after it reached the mountain slopes because of limitations on their firefighting equipment that is why the PAF helicopters played a key role in immediately containing the fires through the bambi bucket operations while the BFP personnel, the community and other volunteers conducted firefighting on the ground to prevent the fires from ravaging nearby houses in the various areas provincewide.
Annawiw emphasized that coordinated augmentation from all fronts is crucial in the continuous prevention of the rapid spread of the fires that resulted to the eventual suppression of the forest fires that transpired in various parts of the province.
He called on residents to ensure that there will be no unattended fires within their communities, especially when doing community cleanup campaigns, to prevent the occurrence of similar incidents that may inflict serious damages to both life and limb as well as to the state of the environment considering that Benguet forests serve as one of the major sources of water flowing to the various river systems and providing adequate water supply to lowland communities.
Further, Annasiw also appealed to smokers not to indiscriminately dispose of their lighted cigarette butts in the vacant spaces within their communities as it may trigger the occurrence of forest fires that may cause severe and heavy damages to the state of the environment in their respective communities. by Dexter A. See