Aberdare National Park wildfires contained

Aberdare Fire

Wildfires at Aberdare National Park have been contained after about 48 hours.

Photo credit: Courtesy

Kenya Forest Service (KFS) has warned of imminent fire danger season as heightened surveillance begins in forested areas across Mt Kenya ecosystem.

 This comes after an inferno, burning for over 48 hours, destroyed over 550 hectares of the Aberdare National Park.

The fires that consumed mostly the moorland section of the Aberdare ranges started on Saturday night.

It is still unclear what started the five fires that were ignited in different areas of the Northern part of the Aberdare in Eburru area.

Authorities have, however, pointed towards possible arson as the fires were started separately.

Efforts to put out the fires - conducted by a team of 60 people comprising community members, officers from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and Conservation Groups - went on until Monday afternoon when the fire was contained.

Speaking to the Nation, Executive Director for Mount Kenya Trust, Sussie Weeks, said that the wildfires were exacerbated by the inadequate human resource that was available for quick response.

“Besides the present dry conditions, the number of people putting out the fires at first was not enough making the whole operation longer,” she said.

As of Monday afternoon the fire had damaged more than 550 hectares of vegetation in the moorland zone of the forest.

The response groups had to be airlifted to the scene since their vehicles could not traverse the treacherous terrain. 

Following the containment operation, the team started 'mopping up' the moorland zone to ensure that smouldering areas don't reignite.

“The fires have been contained but there is a danger they can re-ignite but the teams will mop up the smouldering areas. We have had times when the undergrowth is still smouldering like a charcoal kiln and can get set off again with lots of wind. But for now, the flames above ground are out,” Ms Weeks said.

The KFS had said that one of the remaining fires went out on its own, leaving only one that had to contained at the moorland.

In a statement, KWS said that it took a team of over one hundred trained staff, partners, community volunteers and firefighters to contain the remaining fire which was at last contained on Monday afternoon.

This came even as the KFS head of conservancy Samuel Ihure warned of a looming fire danger season in forested areas.

The forestry protection department usually issues warnings of dangers of fire especially during dry seasons.

“During this period the vegetation dries up and makes it vulnerable to fires. We are at very early stages of the fire season because it usually starts mid-February or end of February but we are monitoring the weather patterns,” Mr Ihure said.

During the fire danger season, conservation authorities and groups heighten surveillance and put up preventive measures in forested areas among them creating fire breaks and clearing dry vegetation.