Alarming Rise in Forest Fires Hits the Cordillera Administrative Region
Since the onset of 2024, the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) in the Philippines has witnessed a concerning surge in forest fires, with more than 20 incidents recorded. The fires have not only engulfed vast stretches of forest but have also threatened iconic areas like the government-run Camp John Hay, sparking widespread concern among residents and authorities alike.
Escalating Fire Incidents
The Bureau of Fire Protection-CAR (BFP-CAR) has reported that Benguet bears the brunt, with nine fires, closely followed by Mountain Province with eight and Abra with three. Notably, the villages of Ampucao and Dalupirip in Itogon, Benguet, experienced prolonged fires that lasted into the first week of February. These fires predominantly originate from open flames on farmlands, rubbish burning, cooking, and careless cigarette disposal.
A Growing Concern
2023 saw a significant jump in non-structural fires, including grassfires, forest fires, and rubbish fires, totalling 199 incidents compared to 102 in 2022. This trend underscores a growing environmental and safety concern, necessitating urgent action to prevent further damage.
Recent Fires and Response
A notable forest fire flared up near the Voice of America site within the Camp John Hay reservation area on February 11. Thanks to concerted efforts, the fire was suppressed by the afternoon. However, subsequent fires on February 13 and 14 have put authorities on high alert, with the causes still under investigation.
Community and Authority Response
Fire Sr. Supt. Robert Pacis, BFP-CAR regional director, emphasized the importance of community-level prevention measures. Moreover, he highlighted ongoing efforts to modernize the BFP’s operations. Pacis pointed to the construction of new fire stations and the procurement of fire trucks and ambulances as critical steps toward enhancing fire response capabilities in the region.
The spate of forest fires in the Cordillera Administrative Region highlights a critical need for heightened awareness. Consequently, proactive measures must be taken to protect these vital ecosystems and communities. As authorities work to bolster fire prevention and response mechanisms, it’s imperative that the cooperation of local communities is sought. Their involvement will be indispensable in mitigating the risks and impacts of such disasters in the future.