FIRE fighters suppressed another forest fire in Itogon, Benguet Thursday afternoon.
Municipal Fire Inspector Jesus Yango said the second forest fire happened in Sitio Santa Fe after the first occurred in Sitio Sal-angan, both in Barangay Ampucao, Itogon which started Wednesday morning, February 20.
The Bureau of Fire Protection Benguet Provincial Office said 60 hectares were damaged in the first forest fire at Philex Mining Corporation (PMC) which also destroyed the firm’s storage facility of the forestry department. Five people, including four Philex forestry workers who took part in firefighting efforts, were killed. It was declared fire out at 4 a.m. of February 21.
Based on initial investigation, witnesses in the area first saw that the fire started at around 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Philex firefighters were immediately dispatched to put the fire out, but they were not able to control the fire’s rapid forward spread due to the windy condition.
Employees, residents of the Padcal community, service providers, as well as teachers and students of the Saint Louis High School pitched in to assist in firefighting efforts, but the sheer magnitude of the blaze could not be suppressed.
Firefighters from the municipalities of Tuba and Itogon, from Baguio City, the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), the Philippine Export Zone Authority (PEZA), and from Delta Earthmoving, Incorporated also came to help.
Eulalio Austin Jr., PMC president and CEO condoled with the family of the bereaved and pray for the souls of his co-employees for their supreme sacrifice in the line of duty.
“The cooperation of the whole Padcal community — the employees, students, residents — including our friends from Baguio and our host communities, made the big difference in suppressing the forest fire and prevented it from creating further damage to the schools and residences,” Austin said.
Austin added immediate assistance to the bereaved families has already been extended by the company.
Engineer Felizardo Gacad, Mines Safety Environment and Social Development Division chief of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau – Cordillera added authorities are currently assessing the area to prevent another forest fire.
Gacad added the area is being reforested and maintained by the mining company since 2015 where 96,000 newly propagated tree seedlings covering 135 hectares were razed.