Fire rages atop mountain near Banahaw

Unusually hot and dry conditions have triggered a widespread forest fire atop Mount Cristobal adjacent to mystical Mount Banahaw since Saturday evening, an official of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Sunday.

Sally Pangan, DENR-park superintendent for the Mount Banahaw-San Cristobal protected area, said the forest fire in the southwestern side of Mount San Cristobal started burning the grasslands inside the territorial jurisdiction of San Cristobal village in San Pablo City at around 7 p.m. Saturday and was still raging as of Sunday morning.

“The volunteers were still battling the fire. But we need the help of the Philippine Air Force to effectively combat the fire,” Pangan said over the phone.

She suspected that the blaze was accidentally triggered by the un-extinguished fire which was left behind by honey bee collectors in the area.

No casualty was reported in the forest fire, Pangan said.

Nilo Tamoria, head of the DENR in the Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) region, said the blaze has already covered an estimated 70 to 80 hectares.

“It is hard to contain because (the fire scene) is inaccessible to land transportation. I’m coordinating with the PAF based in Lipa for possible assistance as well as with the Bureau of Fire Protection,” Tamoria said over the phone.

He said the fire is also the effect of the El Nino phenomenon that is taking its toll across the country.

“I’ve already instructed Pasu Pangan to monitor the developments and coordinate with officials of adjoining barangays (villages), local government units, and seek community assistance inside the protected area to prevent the further spread of the fire,” Tamoria said.

Several incidents of similar fires also occurred in the past particularly during Lenten season when the two mountains were still open to the public and religious devotees.

The past forest fires were often caused by lighted candles left by pilgrims or irresponsible camping practices by mountaineers.

Mounts Banahaw-San Cristobal, considered a spiritual mountain by many believers, straddles Quezon and Laguna. It was declared a protected sanctuary in June 2003.

In the summer of 2004, the Protected Area Management Board closed with barbed-wire fences several trails leading to the bosom of the mountain to start a rehabilitation program that aimed to resurrect natural resources.

SOURCE: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/regions/view/20100228-255821/Fire-rages-atop-mountain-near-Banahaw

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