A FIRE swept across 120 hectares of a reforestation project in Barangay Canangcaan, Oslob town last Sunday, and authorities are verifying reports that a 14-year-old boy may have caused it.
The fire department in Oslob admitted they were not able to respond because no one told them about the fire, which broke out in steep terrain.
The fire occurred at 2 a.m. last Sunday and destroyed around 60,000 trees worth P285,000, said officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Central Visayas.
It was one of the plantations under DENR’s National Greening Program (NGP).
The DENR 7 has ordered the immediate monitoring of its NGP plantations in the region, amid worries that forest fires are more likely to occur during El Niño.
Dr. Eddie Llamedo, DENR 7 spokesperson, said that based on the investigation by the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO) in Argao, Cebu, the flames spread after a 14-year-old boy played with fire in the area.
The plantation had been identified by DENR as a “critical” site that was highly vulnerable to a fire. Various species of trees such as kakawati, robles, ipil-ipil and molave were destroyed.
Llamedo said that residents in the area failed to stop the forest fire because of the steep terrain and their lack of water sources.
FO1 Ryan Inocencio of the Oslob Fire Station told Sun.Star Cebu they didn’t receive a report about the forest fire in Barangay Canangcaan and were unable to help.
“Wala may nakareport namo diri. Residente o ang barangay captain. Mao wala mi karespond (No one reported it to us. Not the residents or the barangay captain. That’s why we couldn’t respond),” he said.
Inocencio added that the village is located in a remote and inaccessible area close to the town’s boundary with Samboan.
Due to the incident, Dr. Isabelo Montejo, DENR 7 director, ordered the immediate monitoring of all 20 NGP plantations in the region.He also urged towns with NGP plantations to organize their own community fire brigades to counter the effects of the El Niño phenomenon.
Montejo asked the existing fire brigades in nine critical NGP plantations to be vigilant and focus more on fire prevention rather than control.
The nine critical NGP plantations in Central Visayas are in Oslob and Argao in Cebu; Ubay, Buenavista, Getafe, Pilar and Talibon in Bohol; and Ayungon and Bindoy in Negros Oriental.
Montejo also ordered CENRO heads with NGP plantations to install fire lines.
These are 10-meter-wide stretches of land that are kept free of any vegetation. These are established on the borders and after specified intervals inside the plantation to keep flames from spreading.
He also urged the public to avoid activities that may cause fires within forest areas such as throwing cigarettes, leaving campfires unattended and using slash-and-burn farming methods.
At noon yesterday, a grass fire occurred in Barangay Tabok, Mandaue City, in an area near the Butuanon Bridge.
No one was reported hurt in the fire, which responders from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP)-Mandaue City put out in five minutes.
SFO1 Nilo Cosido said they received a call for help at 12:18 p.m. They have yet to find out what caused the fire.
Aside from grass, there were dying banana trees in the area.
Senior Insp. Joel Abarquez, Mandaue City fire marshal, recently advised landowners to take precautions against grass fires with the onset of the dry season.
Among others, Abarquez said, grassy lots should be kept free of glass bottles, which can ignite fire when exposed to the sun, and the grass should be sprinkled with water from time to time.
The country observes Fire Prevention Month every March to urge the public to be vigilant as fires occur more during summer.
Last Thursday, two fires occurred in Mandaue City within four hours. The first fire hit the warehouse of an oil factory in Barangay Subangdaku. The second fire struck a hut in the dumpsite in Barangay Umapad.
No one was reported hurt in both fires.
Last Tuesday, fire destroyed 40 houses in Barangay Paknaan, displacing more than 60 families.
The City Government placed three sitios under a state of calamity so calamity funds can be released to aid the fire victims.