Forest fires break out in Cordillera | Inquirer News

Forest fires break out in Cordillera

Latest blaze hits Mt. Sto. Tomas in Benguet; BFP execs say strong wind, dry conditions in mountains cause flames to spread rapidly
By: - Correspondent / @kquitasolINQ
/ 05:08 AM February 09, 2024

forest fire in Itogon, Benguet

BATTLING THE BLAZE A helicopter of the Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Group (PAF TOG) 1, stationed in Baguio City, airlifts a water bucket to help douse a forest fire in Itogon, Benguet, in this photo taken on Jan. 27. —PHOTO COURTESY OF PAF TOG

BAGUIO CITY—At least 200 hectares of forested areas in the Cordillera region have been ravaged by fires since last month, the latest of which continued to engulf parts of Mt. Sto. Tomas in Benguet province, authorities said on Thursday.

According to the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in the Cordillera, the fire on Mt. Sto. Tomas covering Sitio Cabuyao in Benguet’s Tuba town began on Wednesday and continued to rage as of Thursday morning.


Cabuyao residents alerted the Tuba fire station after seeing the fire break out from the mountain but authorities have yet to determine the cause of the blaze.


The largest forest fire to strike the region this year was in Benguet’s Itogon town, affecting 134 ha of forest in early January.

Another forest fire broke out in a mining area in Itogon’s Barangay Ampucao on Jan. 18, and firefighters have yet to determine the extent of damage.The burning of dry grass following a cleanup operation in Ampucao’s forest reportedly triggered the fire that spread quickly, the BFP said in a report.

Separate incidents of forest fire were also reported in the towns of Bokod and Atok, also in Benguet early this month.

In a report, the Atok public information office said the forest fire in Barangay Topdac on Feb. 4 rapidly spread across Halsema Highway in Barangay Caliking due to strong winds.

At least 13 forest and grass fires have been reported in Mountain Province alone since January, according to the BFP. Two of these incidents took place in the first week of February.

In Mountain Province’s Bontoc town, the local emergency operations center reported that 40 ha of Mt. Pokis were engulfed in flames. The forest fire began on Feb. 3 and was extinguished on Wednesday.


The Sabangan fire station also battled a forest fire at Sitio Baguitan in Barangay Data, Sabangan town, also in Mountain Province, on Tuesday; and at Sitio Madepdeppas, also in Barangay Data, on Feb. 2.

Air, ground ops

According to the BFP, its firefighters carried out both aerial and ground-based “suppression strategies” to immediately put out the fires.

In the past years, forest fires broke out in different parts of the region due to kaingin or slash-and-burn farming and clearing operations, worsened by the dry spell experienced in these areas between January and April.

In a local television interview on Wednesday, Fire Inspector Bernard Bravo, chief of the intelligence and investigation branch of BFP Cordillera, said the increasing forest fire outbreaks early this year could be due to the prolonged dry season caused by the El Niño conditions.

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“We’re having dry, rough land areas. All available resources in the mountains, including trees and grasses, are drying up. Even a small spark could ignite [a massive forest fire],” Bravo said.

TAGS: Cordillera, forest fire

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