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JOHANNESBURG: More than 550 hectares of the Aberdare forest have been reportedly been destroyed by a fire that started on Sunday night (February 5).
The fire, suspected to have been started by arsonists, has affected the moorland on the Northern part of the Aberdare in Eburru area.
The park’s name was etched in history when Britain’s Elizabeth II, then a princess on a visit to Kenya, received news of her father’s death while staying at the Treetops Hotel, a remote game-watching lodge built high into a tree in the Aberdare forest.
Located in the Aberdare mountain range, the park is home to spectacular waterfalls and lush bamboo jungles as well as a variety of wildlife including leopards, elephants and critically endangered black rhinos. The Aberdares are the third highest mountain range in Kenya, reaching a summit of just over 4.000 metres, according to Science X.
“On February 6 two fires outbreaks were reported at Oldonyo Lesatima, Aberdare’s highest peak. One of the fires that was spreading towards the Satima area has now been extinguished. The second fire started at the peak and continued spreading towards the downslope. 90% of the fire has been contained and the teams in the ground are mopping the area to ensure the remaining pockets are put out,” Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said.
A joint team of over one hundred trained staff, partners, community volunteers and firefighters are currently at the area working to contain the fire. A chopper has also been mobilized to coordinate their efforts. 90% of the fire has been contained and the teams in the ground are mopping the area to ensure the remaining pockets are put out, reports KWS.
According to AFP, in recent days, concern has grown over a contentious proposal before parliament which could allow politicians to determine if public forest can be carved out and handed over to private interests. The amendment to the Forest Conservation and Management Act – reforms passed after decades of rampant land clearing – has roused significant community anger and sparked fears that it could result in unchecked logging and environmental destruction.
The Star reports that the fire incident happens days after the weather forecast warned that wildfires might strike again due to the dry season. The latest weather forecast by the Kenya Meteorological Department showed Kenya’s forests, parks and national reserves are at risk due to dry February weather.