‘Fire in Mt. Apo placed under control’

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/15 April) — Fire on the country’s highest peak, Mt. Apo, had not been completely put out as of Thursday evening but had been placed “under control,” an official said Friday.

In a press conference Friday at the office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources-11, Bureau of Fire Protection-11 spokesperson Fire Insp. Nestor Jimenez said a reconnaissance on Friday morning saw no signs of active fire.

Jimenez, commander of the Mt. Apo fire Incident Management Team, said they might not need more ground volunteers and declare a “fire out” by next week.

He said the ground responders have been manually covering the minor smokes with soil since last week to prevent igniting another fire.

He said they saw smoke in some areas last Wednesday but ground responders quickly put it out.

All areas were placed under control at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday, he added.

Jimenez said the rains on Friday and Saturday helped in subduing the remaining active fire heads.

“Had there been no rain, we would have been still on ground fighting the fire up to now on,” he said.

In his presentation, Rodrigo Narod Eco, researcher at the Project NOAH (Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards) of the Department of Science and Technology, showed aerial photos of the damaged parts of the mountain taken on April 7 and 15.

“There are no signs of active fire and it’s a good sign because aerial shots were complemented by the results of the works on the ground that there are no more active fire,” he said.

The Philippine Air Force and BFP-11 will assist Project Noah in conducting a thermal scanning next week to spot active fires on the ground.

Last March 31, the Mt. Apo Natural Park Protected Area Management Board approved a resolution indefinitely closing the mountain to trekkers.

In the same press conference DENR-11 assistant regional director Felix Alicer said the IMT will dispatch two teams next week to map and assess the damaged areas estimated at 111 hectares.

“In grasslands, it (damaged areas) will regrow in a matter of months,” he said

The teams include members from the Bureau of Fire Protection, Regional and Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils, local government units and DENR.

The output of the assessment and mapping will serve as basis for the rehabilitation, protection, and conservation programs in Mt. Apo.

Part of the plans is natural regeneration since it is difficult to do tree planting on Mt. Apo’s terrain and most of the damaged portions are grasslands.

“It’s more of grassland areas. To a certain extent, there are trees destroyed but we can accurately determine next week,” Alicer said.

The fire in Mt. Apo started at its peak on March 26. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)