FOLLOWING unsafe levels of PM2.5 in Mae Hong Son province for four consecutive days due to forest fires, a senior official has called on all ministerial offices in nine haze-affected provinces in the North to jointly fight the fires and explain operational progress to the media.
The order was issued yesterday by Wijarn Simachaya, permanent secretary of the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry.
The Pollution Control Department report at 9am cited tambon Jong Kham in Mae Hong Son’s Muang district as having 68 micrograms of PM2.5 per cubic metre of air, well beyond the Thai safety level of 50mcg. The tambon’s Air Quality Index (AQI) score stood at 142, which is beyond the safety limit of 100.
Levels of PM2.5 in the North ranged from 32-71 micrograms, with tambon Nai Wiang in Nan’s Muang district recording 71mcg, while Lampang’s tambon Phra Baht in Muang district and tambon Ban Dong in Mae Mo district both recorded 70mcg.
Mae Hong Son Governor Sirirat Chamupakarn notified the Mae Hong Son Prevention and Suppression of Forest Fire and Haze Centre that the province was “in the process of fuel management”. This entails “Ching Pao” – prescribed burning (applying low-intensity fire to a predetermined area to clear materials that can ignite an out-of-control forest fire), making fertiliser from agricultural waste and burying farm waste as per each district’s action plan.
Sirirat said the prescribed burning was usually conducted at 3pm, and that related agencies’ officials will be on stand-by to control and keep the flames within the desirable zone.
Mae Hong Son has for four consecutive days experienced beyond-safety levels of PM2.5 dust particles, due to forest fires that have gone out of control and are difficult to extinguish because of the province’s steep mountainous terrain.
In the latest incident, a forest fire took hold in Huai Pong Khae village territory – located just behind City Hall – in Muang district’s tambon Pang Moo, with thick billowing smoke that could be seen from afar.
On Sunday alone, a satellite report cited 25 hot spots or forest fires in Mae Hong Son, 10 of which were in Pai district.
Meanwhile, Wijarn instructed the ministry’s provincial branch offices to help the nine northern provinces to curb the prevailing haze and forest fires, periodically update the ministry on operational progress and call for water-spraying helicopters in severe cases such as an earlier forest fire on Lampang’s Phra Baht mountainside.