In Zamboanga City, grass fires reported
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Apart from a forest fire raging for several days now on Mount Apo on its eastern end, Mindanao is beset with another persistent ecological and livelihood problem on its opposite end in Zamboanga—grass fires amid a lingering dry spell.
A total of 83 grass fires have been reported with regularity in Zamboanga City since January, according to Chief Insp. Clint Cha of the city’s fire department. Last week alone, 14 were recorded, including those in Barangay Salaan and in Sitio Muroc in Barangay Pasonanca that razed about 20 hectares of grassy and forested areas.
“The El Niño phenomenon is causing more rivers to dry up. Green grasses and weeds are drying fast. Even trees are becoming more vulnerable to fire, especially from smokers,” Cha said.
He blamed “kaingineros” (slash-and-burn farmers) for starting some of the fires and smokers who carelessly threw away their cigarette butts.
The official raised fears that the grass fires in the hilly areas could reach households.
Controlling the fires was being complicated by the hardly accessible terrain in several burning areas and the scarcity of water due to the dry spell, Cha said. “Our fire trucks were not designed to reach [the hilly areas],” he pointed out.
Elmer Apolinario, the assistant city administrator, said the city government converted two swimming pools in Barangay Pasonanca into water storage facilities. “Our firefighters can easily get water from the pools,” he said.
The Bureau of Fire Protection has recruited villagers to form a “hampas” (backlash) brigade, which uses fresh tree branches and twigs to drub and snuff out the flames.
Cha said the slash-and-burn farmers were being made to understand that what they had been doing was dangerous and could lead to more serious problems, especially if the fire reaches the residential areas.
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