By Liza Agoot

ABLAZE. Parts of a mountain in Springhills, Barangay Apugan-Loakan, Baguio City burn Friday morning (Feb. 23, 2024). The Bureau of Fire Protection-Cordillera said more than 300 hectares of forests have been razed in Baguio City and Benguet. (Photo courtesy of Baguio-PIO Facebook)

BAGUIO CITY – The Bureau of Fire Protection-Cordillera Administrative Region (BFP-CAR) said more than 300 hectares of forest in this city and the province of Benguet have been affected by forest fires, some of them yet to be contained.

BFP-CAR data showed forest fires occurred in Itogon and Bokod town in Benguet.

Sitio Banao and Sitio Bisal in Barangay Bobok, Bokod were the worst hit with an estimated 200 hectares razed.

In Baguio City, 20 hectares were destroyed in Barangay Kias near the Philippine Military Academy.

Another fire erupted at about 5:57 a.m. Friday at Springhills in Barangay Apugan-Loakan and was declared out by 11:30 a.m., according to the Public Information Office (PIO).

The PIO is still gathering details about another incident along Ambuklao Road, reportedly near a posh subdivision.

Also ongoing as of posting time are fires in Mt. Sto. Tomas in Tuba and the Mt. Pulag Akiki trail area in Kabayan, both in Benguet. 

Albert Mogol, City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CDRRMC) chair and regional director of the Office of Civil Defense, said the Philippine Air Force is continuously doing heli-bucket operations to support ground suppression activities being conducted by Local Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils, BFP, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office and other responding agencies.

Sr. Supt. Floyd Toyokan BFP-CAR assistant regional director for operations, said during the CDRRMC meeting on Thursday that 63 forest fires have been recorded in the region since the start of the year, with 32 of them in Benguet.

Mogol has called for intensified efforts, particularly on the enforcement of laws to prevent and eliminate the cause of forest fires in the region. 

“Kailangan natin itong pagtulungan (dahil) hindi ito kaya ng isang ahensya lamang lalo na sa lokal na lebel. Kailangan din ang partisipasyon ng publiko and ang mga naapektuhang komunidad (We need to help each other because this cannot be handled by just one agency. We also need the public’s participation),” he added. (PNA)