Tue, Feb 13, 2001 - Page 1 News List

Blaze gets closer to national park

WILDFIRE A fire that may have been begun by welders is raging on Lishan close to Shei-pa National Park, threatening a rare species of local salmon

By Chuang Chi-ting  /  STAFF REPORTER , WITH AGENCIES

A forest fire in central Taiwan continued to rage yesterday after burning for some 30 hours, engulfing 80 hectares of forest with no sign of letting up.

Rough terrain and strong winds slowed the efforts of more than 200 firefighters as the blaze headed toward Shei-pa National Park (雪霸國家公園), a popular tourist destination.

Some 200 firefighters were sent to Lishan (梨山), a mountain noted for its pear production some 200km south of Taipei, to battle the fire, which erupted at around 10:30am on Sunday, the Council of Agriculture said.

"But the fire is still not under control because the mountain is too steep to get there," said Chen Yu-hsin (陳雨鑫), deputy magistrate of Taichung County.

By yesterday evening the fire had broken through one blockade and officials hoped that the Teh-chi Water Reservoir (德基水庫) would help act as a natural barrier to the blaze.

There were no reports of deaths or injuries. Officials said they believe the blaze had been sparked by workers welding tubes at a shack at the nearby Hoping Farm (和平農場) in Taichung County.

While expressing their hope that the fire would be slowed, officials played down the possible extent of the damage.

"The trees that have been damaged are mostly of poor economic value," said Peng Mao-shung (彭茂雄), deputy superintendent of the park's headquarters.

"The fire started far uphill and has not yet affected the popular tourism spot downhill," Peng said.

But there was a chance the fire could spread to a preservation zone for the Formosan Landlocked Salmon, a rare species of fish which exists only in northeastern China, North and South Korea, Japan and this part of Taiwan.

"We are aware of and have prepared for such a possibility," Peng said.

He said the administration would cut trees around the preservation zone if they sense the changing direction of wind is leading the fire to further threaten the fish.

The land near Hoping Farm is under the administration of the Taiwan Forestry Bureau (林務局) of the Council of Agriculture. Where the fire started is roughly 3km from the Shei-pa National Park.

About 200 workers have entered the site to try and bring the flames under control. However, the council said that under the current circumstances there was no need to call in the military to help with fire fighting efforts.

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