Mt. Apo firebreaks contain blaze, lessen threat
DIGOS CITY—The fire lines that volunteers had painstakingly built the past days on Mt. Apo have proven effective in stopping the spread of the fire, which has been raging since March 26 into densely forested areas, an official of a group monitoring firefighting operations there said on Thursday.
Harry Camoro, spokesperson of Incident Management Team for the Mt. Apo fire, said the
15-meter-wide fire lines (also called firebreaks) had contained the blaze and spared areas in Sta. Cruz town, Kapatagan village here and the Talomo watershed in Davao City.
Camoro did not specify the exact stretch of the lines, but said that putting these up was not an easy job as some volunteers suffered injuries and fell ill.
One volunteer, Elmer Ondong, was airlifted to Davao del Sur Provincial Hospital here after complaining of fatigue, he said. On Wednesday, another, Manny Butad, was taken to another hospital for a sprained leg, while a third, Lloyd Stephen Villa, was treated for minor burns.
“We are now doubling our efforts to look after the health of our volunteers aside from ensuring their safety. We are providing them more food and water, vitamins and other supplies and equipment,” Camoro said.
He said volunteers were reminded to always use safety gear, such as face masks, rubber gloves and helmet, which were given them as they build more fire lines.
“Our ground volunteers continue to extend and enhance the fire lines to prevent the fire from spreading. They are also trying to suppress the identified fire heads (sources),” he said.
Davao del Sur Gov. Claude Bautista said another medical team was sent to examine volunteers before they were allowed to continue the operation.
Bautista also ordered the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office to slaughter a pig and its meat prepared for the volunteers’ meals so they can regain their strength.
For days now, nearly 200 volunteers working on the fire lines have to contend with a daily diet of instant noodles, rice and canned goods.
Digos Mayor Joseph Peñas asked the City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office to prepare vehicles for emergency use.
The Department of Agriculture in Southern Mindanao has conducted another cloud seeding operation in the hope of triggering more rains to douse the fire on Mt. Apo. The mission covered Davao City, Tagum City and Bansalan town in Davao del Sur.
Helicopters sent in by the Philippine Air Force resumed dumping sacks of crushed ice on embers, which had rekindled a big fire early Thursday.
The need to put off the embers was more apparent now as these could be blown off by wind toward other areas and start another fire, Camoro said.
Mt. Apo’s ground cover had dried up due to the drought, making it easy for fire to start, said Rye Glenn Trinidad, president of the Mindanao mountaineering federation.
Earlier, a damage assessment conducted by the Department of Science and Technology, through satellite imaging, revealed that a large portion of the 54,974-hectare Mt. Apo had been razed by the fire that started two weeks ago, on a Black Saturday.
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