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KDF soldiers to help put out Mt Kenya wildfire

Friday March 1 2019

Mount Kenya National Park

This image taken on February 28, 2019 shows a section of Mount Kenya National Park that was destroyed by a wildfire. PHOTO | ALEX NJERU | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

ALEX NJERU
By ALEX NJERU
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Kenya Defence Forces soldiers have been deployed to help put out the wildfire that has so far destroyed 100,000 hectares of vegetation in Mount Kenya National Park.

The 490 soldiers team up with Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service and members of the public in extinguishing the fire that has been raging since last Saturday. It was first spotted at Moorland near Lake Ellis.

The cause of the fire that has affected Tharaka Nithi, Embu, Kirinyaga, Meru, Laikipia and Nyeri counties has not been established.

STRONG WINDS

Environment Cabinet Secretary Keriako Tobiko visited Mount Kenya ecosystem on Thursday where he undertook aerial surveillance and observed efforts to suppress the fire that has so far razed over 100,000 acres of moorland.

The CS who held discussions with members of the County Security Committee, at the joint command centre at Chogoria gate, Tharaka Nithi County, said bad terrain and inadequate resources are some of the problems the firefighters are facing.

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Mr Tobiko advised the county governments to take up a unified approach in putting out the fire.

The park's Senior Warden, Mr Isaac Mugo, said: "We are hoping that with the [help of] KDF officers we will put out the fire soon, though it is spreading very fast due to strong winds."

Chief Conservator of Forests Monica Kalenda said 120 cases of wildfires have been reported nationwide since January, and 110,582 hectares of vegetation destroyed, dealing a blow to the revenue stream.

In a statement released Friday evening, the Ministry of Environment and Forestry said in some areas the fire had been put out but in other areas the fire is still raging.

Four major fires in Meru and Tharaka Nithi side are still burning despite major suppression efforts witnessed Friday.

COORDINATION

"A total of 555 responders including KDF soldiers are now on site working to suppress the fire. Unfortunately, A fire has also erupted at a bamboo forest area near Chogoria gate," said the statement.

"Fire at the Kirinyaga side in Kangaita had been controlled but later in the day it erupted again. Aberdares Forest has also been on fire since Thursday morning and it is still burning at Kamiruri area of Ndaragua forest station. In addition, the Shamata fire at Aberdares National park is still raging despite major efforts by multi-agency responders.

"KDF has deployed 240 troops to Chogoria gate and the troops started firefighting today. Another 250 KDF troops have been deployed to Nyeri side of Mt Kenya. The fire seems stubborn mainly due to bad weather. An operational plan has been agreed upon by the unified multi-agency command team under the coordination of the County Commissioner Tharaka Nithi and major gains are expected to be registered Saturday."

Mt Kenya forest fire has been raging for the last five days. About 100 personnel comprising of Community Forest Association members are also involved in firefighting efforts.