By Claudeth Mocon-Ciriaco / Correspondent
THE Philippine Red Cross (PRC) Davao City Chapter, in coordination with local authorities, has mobilized a search-and- rescue team to help in the firefighting efforts on Mount Apo in Davao.
The PRC sent a 13-strong firefighting team that coordinated with the local government and other volunteer teams to help build fire lines to help prevent further the spread of the fire.
The team also set up a first-aid station and provided immediate health services to other responders in the area and local residents who needed immediate medical assistance.
“Aside from our Davao City Chapter, our chapter in Davao del Sur and the North Cotabato-Kidapawan Subchapter also provided assistance by putting up first-aid stations and coordinating with the local government and other agencies in responding to the situation,” PRC Chairman Richard J. Gordon said.
Gordon added that the local PRC chapters in the affected areas are currently coordinating with local government agencies on how the PRC can assist in providing water for the firefighters and volunteers working to suppress the fire, as well as other needed assistance.
Mount Apo, which was declared a natural park in 2004, is the highest peak in the country, with an elevation of 2,954-meters above sea level. The fire in Mount Apo started on March 26 in the Kidapawan City trail and has now ravaged several hectares of forest and grassland.
Meanwhile, a grassfire or bushfire also broke out on Mount Magantol, part of the Mount Kitanglad Range Natural Park in Bukidnon on Saturday.
Recent reports indicate that the fire is spreading, particularly on Mount Nakalu in Barangay Sil-ipon in the town of Libona.
Authorities say that the areas where the fire happened have no communities nearby, so there are no affected families and no evacuation was needed.
Some reports say that the ongoing drought in some areas in Mindanao caused by El Niño have caused the bushfire in Bukidnon and have further exacerbated the fire in Mount Apo.
Although the cause of the fire in Mount Apo is still being determined, authorities say that the risk for fire was increased by the large amounts of flammable debris on the forest floor caused by the long dry spell and high temperatures currently being experienced in the area.
The PRC is currently working with local governments in drought or El Niño-affected communities for the distribution of relief goods, like rice. Some provinces in Mindanao, like Cotabato, Davao and Zamboanga, are experiencing rice and other food shortage because farmers cannot plant as the drought have left many farmlands dry.