THE BATTLE AGAINST A wildfire in Chiang Rai’s Mae Chan district dragged on yesterday as officials, military personnel and volunteers worked tirelessly to prevent the blaze from engulfing towns nearby.
More than 1,000 rai (160 hectares) was burned to ash in villages Ban Mae Phuang, Ban Pa Tung, Ban Pa Tang, and Ban Pa Khum in Mae Chan district and 36 rai in tambon Ban Pa Lung in Muang district after the fire started on Monday night and quickly spread through the forest on Doi Charake.
On Monday night, locals reported that the entire mountain was glowing red with flames, and now at least five communities are in danger from the fast-spreading blaze.
Officials and volunteers try to stop the fire in Doi Charake forest in Chiang Rai’s Mae Chan district after more than 1,000 rai (160 hectares) of forest was burned down yesterday.
People working on the fire-fighting mission said it was very difficult to get the blaze under control because of the inaccessible rough mountainous terrain and fast-spreading flames.
Mae Chan district chief Wandee Ratchompu said that due to these unsafe circumstances, the 1,000 or so volunteers and officials had to wait until sunrise before starting their fire-fighting operation.
Since at least five communities are situated within the range of the blaze, Wandee has called on officers to closely monitor the situation, especially for communities along the west of Phaholyothin Road near Mae Chan–Mae Ai junction, which is only one kilometre away.
She said soldiers from Military Circle 37, Chiang Rai Provincial Peace and Order Maintaining Force, and Pha Muang Task Force have been dispatched to help extinguish the fire, while the Army Aviation Centre and Protected Areas Regional Office 15 also provided helicopters to support the mission.
The Protected Areas Regional Office 15 director Kamonchai Decha said his agency’s helicopters had sprayed inaccessible areas six times so far and had been able to successfully bring the fire under control on 30 rai.
Kamonchai said that though the fire had already spread toWiang Pa Pao district, it was quickly taken into control thanks to the efforts of the officials and volunteers.
Meanwhile, Maj-General Bancha Suriyapan speculated that the wildfire was sparked by illegal poachers, judging by the fact that similar fires were started at the same time throughout the northern region. Hence, Bancha has ordered relevant officials to investigate this issue and bring the suspects to justice.
The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency’s satellite system detected up to 735 hotspots in Thailand yesterday, while Chiang Rai had the most hotspots at 244.
The adverse impact from this serious wildfire has been felt in Chiang Rai, as dense smoke from the burning worsened the already serious smog situation in the province.
The Pollution Control Department reported that as of yesterday the PM2.5 level in Muang Chiang Rai district had peaked to 202 micrograms per cubic metre of air and up to 207mcg in Mae Sai district, while the safe limit for PM2.5 in Thailand stands at just 50mcg.