Forest fire eats up part of Lanao Sur’s ‘Sleeping Lady’ mountain

ILIGAN CITY (MindaNews / 22 January) – Fire of still undetermined origin razed a cogonal area in the mountains of Butig, Lanao del Sur, late Thursday afternoon and has yet to be contained as of Friday noon.

A photograph taken by Khan Sharief at 9:50 p.m. on Thursday showed the fire lighting up the evening skies over what locals refer to as “Sleeping Lady” or “Sleeping Beauty” mountain.

Engr. Pipalawan Naga, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer, said the area that caught fire in Butig town is a cogonal area and is far from a community. Cogon is a type of grass seen in open areas in mountains.

Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Bombit Alonto Adiong, Jr. said a team from the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office has been deployed to the area.

The Provincial Information Office posted on its Facebook page Friday noon the report of Saripada Lucman Pacasum Jr., Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Officer IV of Lanao del Sur, that the fire started at 10 p.m. Thursday “in the cogonal area located at the boundary of the municipality of Butig and Alamada, Wao. There is still heavy smoke in the area up to now.”

Sharief’s photograph, however was taken at 9:50 p.m. so the fire must have started much earlier.

Pacasum said the area cannot be penetrated by vehicle because of its high elevation. Reaching the area will take a five-hour walk.

“There is no casualty because the area is unpopulated,” Pacasum’s report said. The barangay closest to the area is Barangay Sandab which has 2,000 residents.

The estimated affected area is two square kilometers.

The PDRRMO has yet to determine the cause of fire. It said there are speculations “that an animal hunter started the fire when he was hunting (and that) the fire then rapidly spread and could not be contained any longer,” but this has yet to be validated.

The area where there is smoke allegedly has an active volcano and so, there is a possibility also that this may have caused the fire. This has yet to be verified.

Aida Mamalakat, Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) of Butig, is on the way to Sandab to meet with the officials and residents there.

Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said the ARMM’s Humanitarian Emergency Action and Response Team (HEART) has coordinated with the Armed Forces of the Philippines and ARMM Vice Governor Haroun Al-Rashid Alonto Lucman Jr. was set to go to the area via helicopter.