Fire Lines Created to Protect Mt. Malarayat

Last April 2011 the local government unit of Brgy. Sto. Nino and Pusod Inc. an environmental NGO joined forces in expanding the protection for the reserved forest of Mt. Malarayat in Lipa City Batangas. In line with the objective of sustaining areas protected by these two actors and with the increasing concern of forest fires brought about by the summer season, initiative of creating fire lines were brought up.

Forest fires are considered to be one of the most dangerous disasters sinceuncontrolled blazes fuelled by weather, wind, and dry underbrush, wildfires can burn acres of land—and consume everything in their paths—in mere minutes. Research says that there are three conditions that need to be present in order for a wildfire to burn: fuel, oxygen, and a heat source. Fuel is any flammable material surrounding a fire, including trees, grasses, brush, even homes. The greater an areas fuel load, the more intense the fire. Air supplies the oxygen a fire needs to burn. Heat sources help spark the wildfire and bring fuel to temperatures hot enough to ignite. Lightning, burning campfires or cigarettes, hot winds, and even the sun can all provide sufficient heat to spark a wildfire.*

Once forest fires are ignited, the danger continues to grow because fires in this state are rapidly spreading. Some fires spread along the dead leaves and branches at the bottom of trees. Some fires spread when the leafy canopy catches fire. Also, burning leaves and branches can get blown ahead of the main fire causing smaller fires to start. Indeed wind is a major factor, an element that is very abundant in mountain ranges.

Being surrounded with huge forests in a tropical country like the Philippines, forest fires are major concerns as well. Last January 2004 International Tropical Timber Organization made a Fire Analysis in the country, recommending that a program is required to train and qualifies personnel as necessary in all level of forest fire management (fire line suppression operations to overall incident management) to a common national standard. No such ability currently exists although the DENR, BFP and some local authorities and private companies maintain a limited ability to train personnel for low level fire line suppression operations.

A firebreak also called a fireroad, fire line or fuel break is a gap in vegetation or other combustible material that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a forest fire. The main idea is that there is a need to break the path of the fire, giving fire fighting personnel a chance to get the fire under control. A wide variety of tools can be used to create fire lines, and they take a number of forms, from natural features like rivers to rototilled areas near the front lines of a fire. Firebreak management could be a particularly effective, efficient and low-cost method of simultaneously addressing the issues of wildfire hazards, property damage, the impending energy crisis, global warming, changes to wildlife habitats, and lumber shortages.

Two sites were given attention by Pusod Inc and Brgy. Sto. Nino, the first site has 2 ha elevation 2263ft while the2nd site has 3 ha elevation 2564 ft. The operation was headed by community monitoring team former Bgry. Councillor Regino Pesa, Ronel Pesa, Lexter Osmillo, Juanito Bolino and Ben Borromeo.

By: Robee Ilagan

ITTO Review of Forest Fire Management in The Philippines, 2003