A massive forest fire has been raging for over a month in Kampot province’s Bokor National Park and has destroyed around 100 hectares of forest in Kampot district, environment officials said Feb 9.
Yin Kim Sean, secretary of state at the Ministry of Environment, said that the fire was the largest blaze in the park’s history.
Careless villagers likely caused the blaze, Yin Kim Sean said, but added that despite the widespread burning, many larger trees might survive.
Ek Phirun, a conservation officer stationed at the park, said that the fire began on Jan 8 and park officials have been unable to make any headway in halting its steady progress.
“I have led conservation teams to extinguish it, but it did not work well,” he said.
The poor condition of roads within the park has made it impossible to bring fire trucks close enough to fight the fire, Ek Phirun said.
“We have no modern equipment here…. In other countries, they have helicopters to put out fires,” he added.
Yin Kim Sean said that the ministry plans to educate villagers on the importance of preventing woodland fires.
The ministry also plans to construct fire roads in the park next year to contain future flare-ups and provide access for fire-fighting equipment.
San Sok, a villager in Prek Tnort commune, said that his commune and neighboring Koh Touch commune appeared to be the most heavily affected areas.
Matt Him, chief of Prek Tnort commune, said that rain had not fallen in the area since October and the fire is spreading.
“I don’t think our community will be able to stop it. Only the rain will be able to help,” he added.
Sam Many, a villager in the Prek Tnort commune’s Chang Oeun village, said that his village narrowly avoided destruction two weeks ago when flames were stopped by railroad tracks between the burning forest and villagers’ homes.
Seng Teak, country director for the environmental group WWF, agreed that fire roads were needed in Bokor. Generally, more has to be done to protect Cambodia’s protected areas from the threat of fire, he said.
“I think that fire management is necessary for every national park,” he added.