Scores of acres under the re-afforested Mutitu Forest Station in Kitui County is currently engulfed with billows of smoke, amid efforts by security agencies and disaster teams to contain it.
The fierce fire started more than 18 hours ago on Wednesday afternoon after suspected burning debris from nearby farms landed onto the forest igniting the inferno.
A farmer, David Mutia, who was apparently preparing his farm for the planting season and reportedly left the burning site unattended, is in police custody awaiting his appearance in court later Thursday.
The forest fire was first sighted by vigilant Community Forest Association members who informed the area forester and rangers, prompting quick action to try and contain the fire that was spiraling fast due to the presence of dry mulch.
According to preliminary findings, Joyce Nthuku, the Ecosystem Conservator in Kitui said that the fire is spreading fast and has already destroyed a substantial acreage of trees that were already mature for harvest.
“So far, the fire has consumed two hectares of forest cover under cypress and blue gum trees. However, scores of community members, Kenya Forest Service (KFS) rangers and other volunteers are at the site trying to contain the fire,” said Nthuku.
She was accompanied to the site by Kitui County Government fire brigade team, Red Cross, Senior Departmental Heads and Media to assess the damage caused by the fire and find possible interventions to curb its spread.
“The terrain to the fire incident site is inaccessible. It has huge rock boulders that are steep to climb. The forest is also inhabited by dangerous snakes. We are working on finding safe routes to access the site,” added Nthuku.
The Ecosystem Conservator said that lack of an access route to the top of the mountain where the fire is spreading hampered the fire brigade team from ascending the mountain.
She said that her office is consulting with local leaders and the headquarters to find the best course of action due to the inaccessibility of the mountain to put off the fire.
By Yobesh Onwong’a