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Alert issued on forest fires as dry spell persists

Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has issued a fire alert following the prevailing dry spell in many of the country’s forested areas.

According to Mr Peter Mukira, the Nakuru County Ecosystem Conservator, the current weather conditions are resulting in fast drying of vegetation thus increasing fire dangers.

“The dry spell is here with us again and it usually leads to build-up of inflammable materials, thus increasing the risk of forest fire outbreak. No setting of fire in preparation of shambas within or near the forest reserves will be allowed during the fire season,” he explained.

Mukira noted that it had become necessary to issue the alert in accordance with the Kenya Forest Act 2005.

“We are going into a season of dangerous fires and this is imminent in parts of the forests including the Mau Forest Complex. Already, we have had fire outbreaks in Sururu, Baraget and Menengai Forest stations,” he added.

People near forest stations should beware of the possible fire outbreaks, Mukira indicated.

The County Ecosystem Conservator indicated that they were on a high alert and ready to deal with any arising situation.

He urged the public to remain vigilant and report all possible forest fire threats. Burning of charcoal, he added, will not be allowed during the dry spell.

Mukira stated that all precautionary measures have been put in place at all forest stations countrywide and KFS officers will work in close collaboration with the other government offices.

“We have recalled all officers on leave and annual leave for all officers has been suspended.  All fire watch points are being manned on a full time basis and burning of vegetation near or inside forest areas during this season is no longer permitted,” he said.

He added that all the forest service fire fighting machines were in place with its emergency systems on high alert to ensure a swift and well coordinated effort to deal with any fire threat.

The current dry spell in most parts of the country marks the beginning of the first of the two fire seasons normally experienced in the country.

The dry spells between January and March and August to September are characterized by high temperatures and thus low humidity which makes forests and other vegetation covers highly susceptible to fire outbreaks.

Mukira said no KFS officer including forest rangers would leave his or her duty station without personal approval or written authority from their respective forest managers.

“We are urging all farmers to be extra cautious when using fire, especially now as they are busy with land preparations. All forest officers will remain in their workplaces 24 hours a day including weekends and public holidays, concluded the notice,” he said.

The Conservator stated that all forest managers had been directed to put on standby emergency fire response teams and intensify patrols in their areas of jurisdiction.

The Mau Forest Complex is the largest forest ecosystem and the most important Water Tower in Kenya, covering approximately 455,000ha.

It comprises 22 forest blocks and is a key water catchment area, with 12 rivers feeding into major lakes in Kenya and parts of Western Kenya. It is a globally recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site.

By Jane Ngugi

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