By HERBIE GOMEZ
Editor in chief
and NITZ ARANCON
A GROUP of trekkers, including popular video blogger Kyle Jennermann and another Canadian, scampered for safety as a wildfire blamed on the dry spell quickly spread to where they camped out on Mt. Anggas along the boundaries of Gitagum, Alubijid, Libertad and Initao towns in Misamis Oriental, on Saturday night.
Gitagum Mayor Emmanuel Mugot said the fire spread to Barangay Pelaez in his town at around noon time Saturday, and it stopped burning on Sunday.
Mugot blamed the fire on the dry season, aggravated by the El Niño phenomenon.
“It stopped spreading when there was no more grass to burn,” he said.
The fire started as early as Friday, according to Raul Ilogon, chairman of the Nyors Playground Cooperative that has been providing guides to trekkers in western parts of Misamis Oriental.
Ilogon, who led a group of six trekkers, said they were safe in the place where they camped out but they decided to go elsewhere “for the peace of mind” of two Canadians who were with them.
One of the foreigners is Jennermann, popularly known here as “Kulas,” and another Canadian blogger, Taylor Lundy.
A part of the 24-minute and 22-second video posted by Jennermann on his “Becoming Filipino” channel on Youtube showed the group rushing away from where they were camping out as the grassfire spread near them.
Ilogon said they were on a ridge about a kilometer away from the peak of Mt. Anggas.
“I assessed the situation. There was not much grass around us, and so it was safe. Still, it is scary when bushfire stares at you in the face,” said Ilogon.
He said the fire near them was the size of a two-story building.
Ilogon said his group reached the area and saw the fire at the other side of Mt. Anggas at around 3:30 pm on Saturday. By 7 pm, he said, they noticed that the fire grew bigger.
He said the fire continued to spread when his group climbed down on Sunday morning.
Ilogon said the grassfire affected almost all the summits and ridges of Mt. Anggas in the four towns.
He said the fire must have destroyed seven thousand hectares of grassland.
Mayor Mugot said it was impossible for fire fighters to reach the place because there was no road.
Mugot said grassfires in the area break out almost every year, and townsfolk have become accustomed to these that they no longer see the fires as a cause for alarm.
“Kada tuig man na masunog, karon na-trending lang kay naka-adto man didto ang grupo nilang Kulas (Jennermann) kay didto sila nag-overnight. Sila ang nakakuha og video didto,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ilogon called on officials of Gitagum, Alubijid, Libertad and Initao to pool their resources and create an inter-agency group that would plan the development of the area into an eco-tourism spot.
Ilogon said officials should really enforce laws against kaingin (slash-and-burn technique) and the irresponsible disposal of garbage. He said wastes like plastic bottles and wrappers could spark fires the way magnifying glasses do.
He also called on the town governments to organize fire brigade volunteers especially for Mt. Anggas.
Ilogon also recommended that the area be closed to trekkers for at least 60 days to allow the place to recover faster.
“Humok pa kaayo nang yuta ma-agian og sunog. Dili maayo agi-agian,” he said.