Cordillera Administrative Region

Cordillera faces crisis as region sees alarming spike in wildfires

Mia Magdalena Fokno

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Cordillera faces crisis as region sees alarming spike in wildfires

DESTRUCTION. Fire ravages an area iin Kabayan, Benguet on February 27.

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The Bureau of Fire Protection records 161 fires, mostly wildfires, thoughout the Cordillera region in just two months

BAGUIO, Philippines – The Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) has seen an alarming surge in fire incidents, mostly wildfires, during the first two months of this year, posing a critical environmental and public safety challenge in the region.

According to Inspector Janelle Daniel, information officer of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) in the Cordillera region, there were 161 fires recorded thoughout the CAR from January 1 to February 29. These comprised forest fires, grass fires, structural fires, and other types.

BFP data showed that Benguet recorded the most number of fire incidents, with 66 reported from January to February, followed by Mountain Province with 49 fires during the same period. Even Baguio City, despite its urban environment, had 21 fires.

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ASSESSING. Fire bureau and disaster responders assess the damage caused by a wildfire in Duppa, Loacan, Itogon, Benguet. BFP-CAR

The provinces of Abra and Kalinga reported 12 and 11 fires, respectively, while Ifugao saw only two fires, and Apayao had none.

As of posting time, three forest fires are ongoing, requiring immediate attention from firefighting teams. These include two fires in Tinongdan, Itogon town, and another in Bokod, Bobok Bisal, all in Benguet province.

Civil Defense Administrator Ariel Nepomuceno said they were closely monitoring the wildfires in Benguet. He, however, said that most of the forest fires in the province were either extinguished or brought under control as of Thursday, February 28.

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) is preparing for cloud-seeding operations scheduled for this week to combat the ongoing forest fires, according to PAF spokesperson Colonel Maria Consuelo.

The PAF has deployed helicopters that have already released 800 liters of water in some areas of Mount Camisong. However, this effort has had minimal impact on extinguishing the fires, which have already destroyed over 50 hectares in Benguet and more than 200 hectares in other areas of the Cordillera region since January.

In response to the alarming increase in fire incidents, the BFP, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), and local officials have intensified a training program to suppress and manage forest fires, both on the ground and from the air. They have received support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Albert Mogol, Office of Civil Defense-CAR director, emphasized the importance of collaboration to enhance the skills and capabilities of firefighters and disaster response teams in handling fire emergency situations. –

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