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Wed, Jul 04, 2001 - Page 2 News List

Firemen battle mountain blaze

HOT SUMMER The grueling 17-hour fire required 24 fire trucks and almost 500 firefighters to douse. Officials believe it was all due to carelessly discarded cigarettes

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER

Firefighters take a breather from tackling a mountain blaze which swept through part of Yangmingshan National Park yesterday. The fire, which started Monday night, has destroyed some 25 hectares of forest land in the park and is believed to have been started by a carelessly extinguished cigarette end.

PHOTO: AFP

Part of Yangmingshan National Park will be closed for three months after a 17-hour fire engulfed 25 hectares of the park on Monday night.

Although the cause of the fire has not yet been officially announced, Pi Yu-ming (畢幼明), public relations chief of the city's fire department, said that the blaze might have resulted from the careless disposal of cigarette ends.

Tsay Bae-luh (蔡佰祿), superintendent of the Yangmingshan National Park Headquarters (陽明山國家公園管理處), called on park visitors to completely extinguish cigarette butts before discarding them in a bid to reduce the possibility of future forest fires.

"Visitors need to be extra careful about fire while visiting a forest park, especially during the summer when it's dry and hot," he said.

He added that although the fire did little harm to the quillwort conservation area at Meng Huan Lake (夢幻湖), Chi Hsing Mountain (七星山) will be closed for three months for rehabilitation.

"It takes a long time to recover a natural environment once it's ruined," Tsay said.

According to Pi, the fire broke out at 9:44pm on Monday near Hsiaoyukeng (小油坑) in the northeast side of the national park.

Although the city's fire department dispatched 24 fire engines and 143 firefighters to the scene, the fire quickly widened to 100 pings (330 m2) on the lush mountain which is blanketed with silver grass and sword bamboo.

"The fire spread so quickly mainly because it was extremely dry and windy on the mountain and it was hard to find water to extinguish the fire," Pi said.

An ad-hoc command center was established about two hours after the blaze broke out. At 10:30pm, Tsay arrived at the scene with 40 of the park's administrative officials to help coordinate at the center.

About 150 soldiers and 120 military police arrived at the scene at around 11:30pm in response to the center's emergency request for assistance.

Just as the fire seemed to be under control, it started anew near Meng Huan Lake and Chi Hsing Mountain at around 1am yesterday, Pi said. Meng Huan Lake is a conservation area for the rare Taiwan quillwort.

Firefighters rushed to the municipal Education Radio Station (教育電台), situated close to the lake, after receiving a telephone call at around 11am from the station asking for help.

As the fire gradually built up, the command center requested help from the Forestry Department of the Council of Agriculture, which sent 67 veteran firefighters to help douse the fire.

The fire was finally snuffed out at 2:35pm, more than 16 hours after it first broke out.

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