By KIMBERLIE QUITASOL
BAGUIO CITY — Authorities closed Mt. Pulag to trekkers and visitors due to a forest fire that hit villages of Kabayan town in Benguet. The country’s second-highest peak straddles parts of Benguet (Kabayan and Bokod), Ifugao, and Nueva Vizcaya provinces.
Kabayan Mayor Faustino Aquisan decided to close the mountain park starting February 24, listening to the suggestion of Mt. Pulag Guides Association.
Park Supervisor Emerita Albas has earlier declared the closure of the Akiki Trail on February 23 because of a forest fire raging at the time. She said that even if the fire is already out, the forest has to rest and recover.
“We still have to check before reopening the Mt. Pulag Park to visitors,” she said.
In a social media post, the Kabayan Bureau of Fire Prevention stated that they received a report on an ongoing forest fire in Barangay Eddet. They immediately responded to the area. However, they could not stop the fire from raging because it was on top of the mountain. According to the fire bureau, the place was impossible to penetrate.
“Personnel decided to stand-by for monitoring instead. Fortunately, the sky poured its rain the same day, which made the forest fire to stop,” the post stated.
Earlier, a forest fire that started in Adaoay village raged for a week, from February 11 until February 18. The incident razed 643.69 has of forest land destroying according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. The thousands of trees, seedlings, and saplings destroyed are estimated to be worth P1.67. The fire also engulfed established forest plantations under the expanded greening program of the DENR.
Other forest fires in Benguet
In Tublay town, a fire that started on February 19 and raged for five days and gutted an estimated 75 hectares of forest in Barangay Ambassador. The Tublay BFP declared fire-out on February 24 at around 1:00 in the afternoon.
A belated police report said that a fire that started at Sitio Bawi, Baayan, Tublay, Benguet, on February 22 at about 11:55 AM, razed some eight hectares. The fire was out at around 4:35 PM.
On February 22, a fire raged at Sitio Gasal, Barangay Lubo of Kibungan town. Police reports said the fire affected the adjacent Sitio of Tolibeng and burned down a cabin made of several GI sheets and wood. No one was hurt in the incident.
According to the police, responders had to work harder facing difficulties that include scarcity of water, inaccessibility of the area, and road condition. As of February 24, the fire was still raging. # nordis.net