The Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has issued a fire alert in several blocks within Mau Conservancy in the Central Rift region.
Deputy Head of Mau Conservancy Peter Mukira, while announcing the fire season, cautioned residents living around the forest in Nakuru, Baringo, Kericho, Narok and Bomet Counties against setting fire to any vegetation in or near forest reserves.
In an interview with Kenya News Agency in Nakuru, Mr Mukira said the prevailing dry weather conditions have resulted in rapid drying of vegetation in most protected areas such as forests and game reserves.
“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.
Announcing that no forest officer will proceed on leave during the dry spell while those on leave had been recalled, Mr Mukira indicated that the department was on high alert in the event of any fire outbreaks in the forests.
“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.
No KFS officer including forest rangers will leave his or her duty station without personal approval or written authority from their respective forest managers,”
The Deputy Head of Mau Conservancy stated that 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.
The forest complex faces tremendous pressures and large amounts of forest destruction. While the forest complex is the source of 60 per cent of Lake Victoria, which is shared between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania, the forest is also key in supporting farming activities and electricity production.
by Anne Mwale