Central Luzon foresters, farmers team up vs wildfires

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FARMERS in Hacienda Luisita try to stop a grass fire that spread into a sugarcane field in a section of the estate in Concepcion, Tarlac, in January this year. E.I. REYMOND T. OREJAS/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has advised more than 2,000 foresters and upland farmers in Central Luzon to help protect the region’s 589,945 hectares of forests from wildfires this summer.

Maximo Dichoso, DENR regional executive director, gave the advice last week, as rainfall was expected to be less than 200 millimeters until May and the dry spell brought about by the El Niño phenomenon would continue this year.

Fires spreading from dry grasslands ate up almost 200 ha of forest plantations and reforestation projects, Dichoso said.

He said 120 people’s organizations have put up fire breaks in some 21,000 ha of community-based forests in the region. Villagers and their local governments were expected to respond first to fires, he said.

Among the Central Luzon provinces, Aurora’s forest cover stands at 238,776 ha; Nueva Ecija, 94,651 ha; and Bulacan, 73,987 ha.

Sofio Quintana, regional forestry deputy director, said fire prevention also covers the 12,000 ha of new forests developed in the region through the government’s national greening program.

In Bulacan, 34 grass fires occurred in March, according to the Bureau of Fire Protection. In 2012, the province was hit by 162 grass fires, with the biggest number, at 42, occurring in April.

In La Union, a two-hour grass fire was reported in the village of Baraoas in Naguilian town on March 27. Police said the fire, which started at about 6 p.m., was put out at 8 p.m. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon; with reports from Carmela Reyes-Estrope, Inquirer Central Luzon, and Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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