Grass fires from warm weather, cigarette butts alarm GenSan officials

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews / 2 April) – Environment personnel here have expressed alarm over the rising incidence of grass fires caused by the warm weather during the summer and sparked by still lit cigarette butts thrown carelessly by smokers.

Augustus Bretaña, City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) chief, said Wednesday their monitoring showed that around 30 hectares of grassy areas in the city have already been affected by sporadic fires since last month.

He said the grass fires were mainly caused by the intense warm or summer weather and the lack of rains in the area since early March.

Such condition has rendered dry the city’s grassy areas, especially those located in upland barangays, dry and vulnerable to fires, he said.

Bretaña said among the areas that were hit hardest by the grass fires were portions of Barangay San Jose, where around 15 to 20 hectares of grassy areas have already been affected.

“According to local residents, most of the grass fires were caused by lit cigarette butts that were accidentally thrown by some individuals,” he said in a radio interview.

The official said they have coordinated with officials of the city’s 27 barangays and the Bureau of Fire Protection to help monitor and properly respond to cases of grass fires in their areas.

“Our main concern right now is the possibility of these grass fires reaching our tree planting areas and eventually destroy our planted trees,” he added.

Bretaña was referring to areas that were earlier adopted as sites of the local government’s annual tree-growing festival.

He said among the “tree-growing areas” that are considered vulnerable to grass fires are those located at the boundary of this city and Tantangan town, specifically in the upland portions of Barangay Cabuling.

Local residents have already planted nearly 800,000 trees in the last three years in mountain ranges surrounding the area through the massive tree planting activity, which is held every June.

The city government is pushing for the planting of a record one million trees in June during the fourth tree-growing festival.