Mt. Apo fire contained in North Cotabato side, rages on in Davao Sur side
KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato – The forest fire in the North Cotabato side of Mt. Apo has been contained as of Monday afternoon. It, however, continues to rage in the Davao del Sur side of the country’s highest peak, according to latest reports.
Joey Recemilla, Kidapawan city tourism officer, said at least 200 volunteers from the towns of Makilala and Magpet and this city were deployed in the base camp in Lake Venado to ensure that the fire would not reach the Kidapawan-Magpet-Makilala (KMM) eco-tourism triangle.
Recemilla said the volunteers, armed with spades, rakes, bolos and chainsaws, conducted clearing operations and built a buffer line to stop the fire from spreading to the remaining flora and fauna around the lake, and the 72-hectare reforestation area of the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) operating the Mount Apo Geothermal Power Plant in the North Cotabato side.
The buffer line is about 10 meters wide and at least 200 meters long, according to Recemilla.
“The volunteers cleared the peripheries of any dried materials. Some trees were cut to build a fire line,” Recemilla said.
He added that local government units provided logistics and food to volunteers who stayed at the base camp for almost 48 hours since the fire broke out on Saturday afternoon.
“We already contained the fire. The KMM eco-tourism triangle is now safe, but we are still on a tight watch, especially since the fire is still ongoing in the Davao side, and the wind direction keeps on changing,” Recemilla explained.
All 120 trekkers who used the Kidapawan trails have been accounted for and have safely returned to their places of origin.
“They are all safe. None of them was hurt while going down the peak after the fire broke out,” Recemilla said.
Kidapawan City Mayor Joseph Evangelista has recommended the suspension of the Mt. Apo Summer Trek, saying all Kidapawan trails will be closed to climbers this summer to prevent a similar emergency situation.
He said it would take at least five years to rehabilitate the mountain.
No one, however, could say what and who caused the fire.
North Cotabato Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza called on whoever was responsible for the fire to be brave enough to come forward and admit responsibility.
Mendoza also urged residents with any information on the persons responsible for the fire to report them to authorities.
“This would be helpful in identifying those who should be held accountable for this abominable act,” Mendoza said in a statement.
The governor also appealed for help.
But Janice Javellona, the Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (MDRRMC) officer of Bansalan in Davao del Sur, said the fire might have been started by climbers who set up a camp fire.
“The temperature on Saturday was negative 3. According to some of our rescuers, they received information that some climbers lighted fire in front of their camp,” Javelona said.
Harry Camoro, PDRRMC action officer for Davao del Sur, said the fire started in the Kapatagan trail in Davao del Sur and spread to North Cotabato.
The Bureau of Fire Protection is still determining the cause of the fire, according to authorities.
Bansalan had just opened a trail, which is nearer to the peak of Mt. Apo. But Bansalan Mayor Edwin Reyes ordered the suspension of “Summer Climb 2016” even with the newly opened trail.
Alden Batal, the municipal tourism officer of Bansalan, said that as of Monday afternoon, almost 200 hectares of flora and fauna have been engulfed by the fire.
Edgardo Elera, Digos City tourism officer and acting officer of the Incident Management Team (IMT), said the forest fire in Bansalan has been contained as of Monday afternoon.
“We are now concentrating our efforts on the Sta. Cruz (town in Davao del Sur) side to prevent the fire from spreading towards Barangay Tamayong in Calinan, Davao City,” Elera said.
Einstein Gary Taghoy, Digos City’s DRRMC executive officer, said two teams of mountaineers were sent to Sitio Colan and Sitio Baroring in Barangay Sibulan, Sta. Cruz, to determine the extent of the forest fire in the area.
“They are equipped with handheld radios to provide the IMT base with relevant information which would be the basis for any possible action,” Taghoy said. SFM
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