|Forest managers go on patrol in the Lung Ngọc Hoàng Nature Reserve Centre. — VNA/VNS Photo Duy Khương|
HẬU GIANG — In the face of a complex and potentially hazardous dry season, Hậu Giang Province has implemented several measures to safeguard its forests from the threat of fire.
The Lung Ngọc Hoàng Nature Reserve Centre in Phương Bình Commune, Phụng Hiệp District, is at the heart of this effort. This area is home to the largest forested area in the province, comprising nearly 1,500 hectares, or approximately 40 per cent of the total forest area.
Despite the challenging conditions, the centre has not experienced any forest fires in the last decade. This achievement is the result of the centre's proactive approach to developing and implementing forest fire prevention and response plans to address all eventualities.
Lư Xuân Hội, director of the Lung Ngọc Hoàng Nature Reserve Centre, said that right from the beginning of the dry season, the centre developed plans for forest fire prevention and fighting.
It assigned specific tasks to individuals and teams based on their duties.
Early this week, the provincial Steering Committee for Forest Protection and Development Plan upgraded forest fire forecasts from level one to level three (five is the highest) on all forests in the province.
Following the requirement, the centre tightened fire prevention and fighting work as planned.
Under the plan, the centre’s forces will strengthen patrols on the ground and watchtowers, especially in critical areas, to detect and prevent people from entering the forest illegally.
They will check the humidity and dryness of the vegetation and vines in the forests. Thereby, professional staff can have time and effective forest fire prevention and fighting measures.
Nguyễn Hoàng Thọ, a member of the Lung Ngọc Hoàng Nature Reserve Centre’s forest protection team, said that due to prolonged heat in the past time, the water level in many areas of the centre dried up, causing the vegetation to wither and drop its leaves.
The vegetation layer accumulated for many years is thick, porous and dry, from which it is easy to catch fire.
For many recent days, including Saturdays and Sundays, team members enhanced patrols with the determination to keep maximum safety for the "green lung" of the province.
Forest fires can also be caused by people living in the area and neighbouring localities coming in to exploit forest products illegally. They set fire to cook meals or smoke in the forest and carelessly ignite fires.
Therefore, in addition to patrolling forests, the centre’s workers regularly educate local people on strictly observing regulations on forest protection.
Nguyễn Văn Nhỏ, who lives in Phương Hòa Village, Phương Bình Commune, Phụng Hiệp District, said: “Through the education, local people and I actively work with the centre in forest fire prevention and fighting. When we burn fields to prepare for the next crop or do things that use big fires, we report the centre staff so that they will supervise and take safety measures.”
When local people detect strangers entering the forest illegally, they report it immediately so the centre can handle it promptly.
To quickly detect forest fires, in 2019, the province invested nearly VNĐ500 million (US$21,400) in the Lung Ngọc Hoàng Nature Reserve Centre to install cameras at watchtowers.
The system helps enhance high efficiency in forest fire prevention and fighting.
Director Hội said that, at present, the centre is promoting the effectiveness of the camera system.
The system is installed above four watchtowers, helping to observe the entire forest.
From the many viewing angles provided by the four cameras, it helps the centre staff to detect smoke early and promptly handle incidents occurring in the forests.
In addition, the camera system also saves effort for the centre’s workers.
Previously, eight people were required to be on duty regularly in four watchtowers. Now only two observers in the engine room can cover most of the positions.
The centre also regularly checks equipment for forest fire prevention and fighting and is always ready for an incident.
It clears canals to take water into the forest and pumps water over dry areas to create moisture.
Đoàn Ngọc Thân, director of the Hậu Giang Forest Protection Department, said that compared with the dry season in 2021 and last year, the dry season this year was very harsh.
In the future, the department will check to determine the appropriate forest fire warning level.
It will guide forest owners to develop provincial-level forest fire prevention and fighting plans for 2023-25 and direct forest rangers to coordinate with forest owners and local authorities in raising people’s awareness of protecting forests.
Hậu Giang Province has more than 5,500ha of forest land.
Forest owners have founded six steering committees for forest fire prevention and control.
The core firefighting force comprises 88 members.
The mass firefighting forces have 777 members. — VNS