Forest fire in Albay town spreads to nearby villages

LEGAZPI CITY, (PNA) — The forest fire in Cagraray island in Bacacay town, which started two days ago in the mountainous area of Barangay Manaet, has spread to nearby villages of Tanagan and Namantao, displacing close to 100 families now.

Edwin Belano, village chieftain of Manaet, said the forest fire is getting bigger now, as it is being fueled by strong wind.

“The forest fire is getting bigger and at an alarming stage now because it has spread already to neighboring villages due to strong wind. We’re doing now the ‘bayanihan’ system to contain the fire but it seems to be uncontrollable,” he said.

Many residences are threatened to be engulfed by the spreading wild fire while vast tracts of coconut plantation and karagumoy — the main source of indigenous materials for Albay’s native bags — have already been damaged.

The Philippine Air Force Tactical Operations Group 5’s bucket operations in Cagraray Island yesterday were halted temporarily as a result of an aircraft accident in Marawi City.

But on Friday, the PAF central command gave the green light anew for two helicopters to proceed with the bucket operations to contain the forest fire.

Office of Civil Defense Bicol Director Raffy Alejandro, also the Regional Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council chair, said that as of 7:00 a.m. Friday they had received clearance to mobilize the two choppers.

“We received clearance to mobilize two Huey helicopters from the Philippine Air Force and two RHIBs (Rigid Hull Inflatable Boats, 10-foot boats) from the Philippine Navy to support and augment firefighting operations of the local government unit and the Bureau of Fire Protection,” Alejandro said.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda said the forest fire in Cagraray Island is continuously sweeping closer to Barangays Manaet and Tanagan.

It is also observed to keep on raging with its big flames covering timberland while the river system cannot serve as a buffer to protect the population, according to the governor.

“The authorities in the area are ready and have assured to protect the population. If ever, they will just transfer them to nearby safe residences within the area; no need to evacuate to the main land. They organized themselves within the barangay and agreed to establish a fire line,” he said.

The provincial government, through the social welfare office, is providing food-for-work assistance to Barangay Manaet, intended for people doing the bayanihan system and making the fire line in the upper slope to protect their properties and houses.

While the forest fire in Cagraray Island is getting bigger, other forest fires were reported in the geothermal towns of Tiwi and Manito.

The fire in Tiwi has been observed to be moving towards the forest.

In Manito, planted trees in Cayabon Mountain are being engulfed by the flame right now while it is moving closer towards the Energy Development Corp.’s area.

The flame is big as it swallows big trees, according to a report reaching the Governor’s Office here.

There is no population threatened as the fire moves far from the residential zones but the EDC has positioned one fire truck for contingency.

Earlier, the island town of Rapu-Rapu was also hit by a forest fire but it was contained three days ago due to heavy rain and continuous bucket operations of the Philippine Air Force.