Mt. Apo forest fire now 'alarmingly large'

John Unson (Philstar.com) - March 29, 2016 - 1:18am

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines - The Protected Area Management Board of Kidapawan City on Tuesday raised its assessment of the fire on Mt. Apo to an “alarmingly large forest fire.”

“It is now so wide,” Joey Recemilla, chairperson of the PAMB’s eco-tourism community, told reporters.

The fire started as a small grassfire in an open field at the Davao del Sur side of Mt. Apo, the country’s highest peak at more than 12,000 feet above sea level.

Mount Apo, a protected wildlife habitat, is home to several pairs of endangered Philippine Eagle (Pithecophaga Jefferyi) and other rare species.

“Because of the drought for several months now, the land underneath the forest canopies is covered with very dry leaves of forest trees,” Recimilla said.

READ: Firefighters battle blaze on Mt. Apo

North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza on Monday said firefighters from the province have been dispatched to the scene to help keep the fire from spreading to thicker rainforests on the side of Mt. Apo facing the towns of Magpet, Makilala and Kidapawan City, which are under her administrative jurisdiction.

“We are so saddened by this very unfortunate development. We need to put this fire [out] as early as possible,” Mendoza said.

Recemilla said the fire started on Saturday and spread fast to nearby timberlands.

Latest reports reaching the PAMB’s office in Kidapawan City said there is a possibility the forest fire can spread through the Tamayong, Kulan, Tomnis and Godi-Godi timberlands on the side of Mt. Apo close to Santa Cruz town in Davao del Sur.

Volunteers and firefighters from different North Cotabato towns have established a “forest line,” a clearing separating fire-prone grasslands close to the fire scene and rainforests near the province.

Mendoza said she is thankful to villagers, barangay officials and hinterland tribal leaders for responding to appeals to cooperate to prevent the forest fire from spreading to the North Cotabato area of Mt. Apo.

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