Massive forest fire rages on Mt. Apo; hikers flee inferno
KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines – A major forest fire broke out on Mt. Apo on Saturday and has affected more than 100 hectares of forest cover, the city’s tourism office reported on Sunday.
Dozens of trekkers, who climbed Mt. Apo during the Holy Week, were evacuated as Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) personnel from here, Makilala and Magpet have been trying to battle the forest fire.
Joey Recimilla, the city tourism officer, said the forest fire continued to spread and was only about two kilometers from Lake Venado – which is also adjacent to reforestation sites on the Makilala town side of the country’s highest peak – as of Sunday morning.
“It was expected to reach Lake Venado today and will definitely go down to the Kidapawan and Magpet side,” Recimilla said.
“If the fire will not be contained, I am afraid that by afternoon today it will already penetrate the (Kidapawan-Magpet-Makilala) eco-triangle,” he said.
Recimilla said initial investigation disclosed that the forest fire started about 1 p.m. on Saturday from the camp site on the peak of Mt. Apo. He said it was uncertain if campers started it.
The local government units around Mt. Apo had only allowed 1,000 mountaineers to climb the country’s highest peak due to the onslaught of the drought.
The local government units had agreed to regulate the number of climbers to prevent forest and grass fire because of the drought.
Recimilla said they were still trying to determine how the forest fire started as it occurred amid reminders to mountaineers to be careful.
Officials had prohibited the use of firecrackers, burning of debris and setting up of campfires. Wood, logs and charcoal are also not allowed for cooking in a bid to prevent forest fires.
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