By NITZ ARANCON
THE Northern Mindanao Mountaineering Society (Normms) has warned about more grass and forest fires similar to that of Indonesia’s that caused damages and a smog that threatened even its neighboring countries.
Raul Ilogon, Normms secretary general, said this even his group pointed out that as of Friday, the fire at Mt. Kitanglad in Bukidnon alone has spread across a thousand hectares.
The fires at Mt. Kitanglad and other similar protected areas have been blamed on the rising temperatures due to the El Niño-aggravated dry season.
Ilogon said a grass fire broke out at Barangay Daluangan in Malaybalay City, and it was followed by another fire at the Libona, Bukidnon side of the Mt. Kitanglad range.
He said some 30 volunteers from the Normms helped the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in putting the situation in Barangay Daluangan under control but their resources were depleted.
“Napalong na mao didto dapit sa Daluangan apan piligro dihapon kon mobalik ang pag-ulo sa kalayo kay init pa man kaayo ang panahon,” Ilogon said.
The Libona fire is raging at presstime, he said.
Normms said people should be aware of the dangers being posed by the grass and forest fires even as it called for help.
Ilogon said the local governments can help, too, in an effort to make fire lines.
“Kon dili matabang kanang maong sunog, dako ang posibilidad nga mahurot pagka abo kanang national park sa Mt. Kitanglad,” he said.
He said the fires were also posing serious health risks to people in Bukinon and neighboring areas in Cagayan de Oro.
More Fire Lines
The Protected Area Management Board of Mt. Kitanglad Range Natural Park approved Wednesday the construction of additional firelines in response to fire incidents that have damaged grasslands and natural forests in parts of the mountain range.
Ma. Theresa Allen, chief of the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office-Bukidnon, said the provincial government has committed to allot P5 million from its calamity fund for forest fire suppression as well as firefighting equipment.
Allen said P2.8 million will be spent as cash incentive for local residents who will build the firelines.
The remaining amount will be used to purchase firefighting tools including protective gear like masks and gloves, she added.
Datu Makapukaw Adolino Saway, a Talaandig chieftain and PAMB member, said it would be hard to convince residents to join in building the firelines without the cash incentive.
“People would hesitate to join because it will mean leaving their work and loss of daily income,” he explained.
Allen said people will be hired on a weekly basis. One thousand workers will be hired on the first week, 500 on the second week, and 250 on the third and fourth weeks.
Aside from building firelines, the PAMB also approved a contingency plan that will include building watch towers, a warning system and a fire preparedness plan.
As approved, the firefighting equipment will include 25 units of power spray to be used in drawing water from rivers.
Allen said they also proposed buying flashlights because it’s ideal to do fire suppression work at night and early in the morning due to cooler temperature.
As of Wednesday, Allen said in a report to the PAMB, fires have burned 72 hectares of natural forest with Libona town accounting for the biggest damage at 70 ha.
But she added that they have yet to determine the extent of damage to natural forests in Malaybalay and Sumilao where forest fires were still ongoing.
For grasslands and buffer zones, the fires destroyed 20 ha in Lantapan and 4 hectares in Impasugong. There was no figure yet for Malaybalay.
Allen said fires damaged at least 52 ha in Libona that were reforested under the National Greening Program.