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Wind rekindles fire on Mt. Apo; wild animals flee

/ 12:10 AM March 31, 2016

DIGOS CITY—Fanned by a strong wind, the fire that broke out on Mount Apo on Saturday raged anew in Davao del Sur province on Tuesday night, but officials were hoping that it would not breach the fire line that volunteers had started putting up.

Wild animals have fled from the burning forest and grasslands of Apo, the country’s highest peak, an official disclosed on Wednesday.

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“The fire rekindled on Tuesday night due to a strong wind and is expected to eat more areas as it is now within the Talomo side,” said Harry Camoro, provincial risk reduction management officer.

More than 100 volunteers were working double time in the villages of Tumpis and Kolan in Sta. Cruz town to prevent the fire from eating up the centuries-old “almaciga” tree, a landmark along the Sibulan Trail.

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The volunteers, equipped with shovels and machetes, neared the fire zone to conduct clearing operations, Camoro said. They were expected to work long hours in the area, with an ample supply of canned goods, noodles, rice and water donated by groups and individuals, he said.

Dozens of members of indigenous communities in North Cotabato province arrived as reinforcements in Barangay Kapatagan here on Wednesday.

Eduardo Ragaza, national parks supervisor of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Southern Mindanao, said an Air Force helicopter resumed its flights to douse the flame, which had burned more than 300 hectares of land since Saturday, with water scooped from a lake in Kapatagan.

A drone from Davao City’s Central 911 also surveyed the burning area. Its findings will be used to determine the extent of the damage of the fire, which started near the peak on Black Saturday and areas covered by the fire line, Camoro said.

Current efforts were focused on putting out the fire as soon as possible, Ragaza said. Investigation of persons who actually started the fire will come later despite reports pointing to a group of campers.

More than 1,000 people climbed Apo during Holy Week despite the number cap agreed on by local government units. For example, Sta. Cruz listed more than 500 who were allowed to pass through the Sibulan Trail.

Nelly Nita Dillera, director of the Department of Tourism in Central Mindanao, said she would recommend the mountain’s closure for at least five years so it could recover from the devastating fire.

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In Kidapawan City, the movement of a large number of wild animals was monitored on Apo since the fire struck, according to Joey Recimilla, city tourism officer.

Volunteers who put up a fire line on the North Cotabato side of the mountain found tracks and droppings of the animals in flight, Recimilla said. “These are all indications that animal movement or migration is happening on the mountain,” he said.

Based on the tracks and droppings, the wild animals, including boars, rats, lizards, birds and deer, headed toward Lake Venado and other safe places, he added. Reports from Orlando Dinoy, Eldie Aguirre, Williamor Magbanua, Edwin Fernandez and Germelina Lacorte, Inquirer Mindanao

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TAGS: Animals, Fire, hike, hiker, Mountain, Mountaineer, Mt Apo fire, Mt. Apo
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