Military helicopter dumps water over burning Apo
DIGOS CITY—A military helicopter flew over a fire raging on grassy fields on Mount Apo on Tuesday, dumping 600 liters of water to prevent it from spreading toward Sta. Cruz town in Davao del Sur province.
On the ground, volunteers trekked closer to the scene for clearing operations to build a containment zone.
So far, the fire has razed some 300 hectares of grasslands and forested areas in Apo, the country’s highest peak, since Black Saturday, said Eduardo Ragaza, national park supervisor of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in Southern Mindanao.
“We conducted an aerial viewing on Monday and we saw that the grasses on the entire peak of the mountain had been razed. There are no more grasslands there, but the closed canopy forest cover has not been reached by the fire yet,” Ragaza told the Inquirer on the phone.
The helicopter, which was sent by the Philippine Air Force from Cebu, tossed over the burning grassland a bucket carrying up to 600 liters of water that it scooped from a lake in Barangay Kapatagan here, said Harry Camorro, officer of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office.
“It has some effect and we are not losing hope,” he said, adding that the fire was moving toward Sta. Cruz.
After dumping water 11 times over the fire, the helicopter halted its flights on Tuesday afternoon due to a thick fog that hindered visibility.
More sorties will be conducted once the weather improves, said Edgardo Elera, city tourism officer.
Elera also said volunteers had trekked closer to the fire zone to conduct clearing operations to prevent the fire from further spreading.
Asked how fast the fire was moving, Ragaza said he was not really certain, but added that it was no longer moving at an alarming rate. “The moisture in the mountain is slowing the combustion down but it is still spreading,” he said.
He said authorities were not taking chances though and had sent volunteers to establish a fire line and lay boulders at the boundary of this city and Sta. Cruz to stop the fire from spreading farther.
The Davao City Central 911 also flew drones to determine which areas would be safe for the clearing operations.
“We have volunteers, fire rangers and those from the Special Rescue Unit of the Bureau of Fire Protection. The private sector was also helping by providing vehicles and food,” Ragaza said.
He noted, however, that the volunteers and those sent by government agencies were ill-equipped to fight the fire. What they were doing, he said, was to implement preventive measures.
Saturday’s fire, which prompted the evacuation of nearly 1,000 trekkers who climbed to Apo’s summit during the Holy Week, reportedly started at the Kapatagan trail here.
“The fire started at the peak and then razed areas toward Lake Venado (in North Cotabato) before spreading to the Davao del Sur and Davao City side,” Elera said.
Authorities have not identified who started the blaze but suspected some campers.
While an investigation will be conducted, their concern at the moment is to prevent the fire from ravaging more areas.
Sta. Cruz Mayor Joel Ray Lopez canceled the annual Mt. Apo Boulder Face Challenge scheduled for October. “Mt. Apo should be rehabilitated after this fire,” he said.
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