DENR, BFP to fight forest fires

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(Photo courtesy of BFPCAR-Kabayan Facebook)

MANILA – Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) field staff have been instructed to review existing wildfire prevention measures as man-made wildfires increase during the dry season.

As national case trends of Covid-19 continue to decline, an easing of restrictions on the movement of people in many parts of the country is also likely, according to a DENR press release on Saturday.

Based on DENR-Forest Management Bureau records, wildfire incidents fell from 1,282 in 2019 to 429 in 2020, attributed to lockdown measures.

DENR and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) have conducted cluster training sessions for DENR field personnel and operatives on the various aspects, technicalities and principles of wildfires.

BFP-trained DENR field staff conduct wildfire prevention and response training with DENR-engaged highland communities in its various programs, particularly those covered by the Expanded National Greening Program (ENGP), in their areas of responsibility.

“Wildfires are primarily fueled by human activity, making it imperative for us to recalibrate our response preparedness and wildfire forecast to pre-pandemic levels, which requires closer coordination with grassroots organizations and families benefiting from the National Greening Program,” DENR, Acting Secretary of State Jim Sampulna said in a statement.

“The field offices and communities are seen as our front liners in fighting wildfires. The first line of defense against wildfires is to avoid starting a fire,” Sampulna added.

Man-made wildfires are usually an offshoot of kaingin or slash and burn, farming, smoking comb to collect honey, cigarette butts and other forms of activities involving fire.

In 2020, 389 of the 429 outbreaks occurred on plantations under the ENGP, covering 7,830 hectares worth 119.3 million pesos.

Forty outbreaks occurred in natural forests or wooded areas with naturally growing native trees, affecting approximately 1,278 hectares with damage estimated at 4.27 million pesos.

In 2019, a total of 1,282 outbreaks were reported (1,205 at ENGP sites; 77 in natural forests) affecting 24,091 hectares (22,3723 hectares at ENGP sites; 1,719 hectares in natural forests) with a damage cost of PHP 417.9 million (396 PHP million in ENGP sites; PHP 22.2 million in natural forests).

BFP Director Louie Puracan underscored the central role of DENR partner communities in wildfire prevention and detection, saying the preparedness of field workers and partner communities “gives them valuable lead time to respond appropriately to a wildfire outbreak.”

“There is already a protocol in place for the BFP, including other appropriate agencies such as the DENR and the concerned Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Council,” Puracan said.

The BFP was established by virtue of Republic Act 6975, also known as the Department of the Interior and Local Government Act of 1990, which mandates the agency to be responsible for the prevention and suppression of all destructive fires, including but not limited to wildfires. (PR)

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