Devastating Forest Fire Blamed on Hunters, Foragers

A forest fire races across dry brush Thursday morning in Lampang province. Photo: Matichon

LAMPANG — A fire that scorched hundreds of rai (dozens of hectares) of forest and brush Thursday morning in the northern province of Lampang was likely caused by carelessness, a local forest official said.

A frustrated-sounding forest protection official said the fire, which began at about 7am and consumed large swaths of area on both sides of the border between Lampang and Sukhothai provinces, said it was humans – not the heat – to blame.

“Carelessness is the sole reason for the fire. It was 100 percent caused by humans, ” said an angry-sounding Suppawit Sakarin, head of the regional Forest Protection Unit. “The entire area here is very, very burnt now. You can come see it for yourself.”

Suppawit said that the fire ravaged “hundreds of rai,” rather than the 30 reported in media accounts, and that he hadn’t even seen all the damage yet.

“The fire spread so quickly, covering hundreds and hundreds of rai up the mountains,” he said.

He said some areas have been extinguished, but some mountain locations were still burning as of noon Thursday because he only has four rangers to fight the flames. “We are all exhausted,” he said.

Suppawit, who led the fire crew to douse the flames, said it was likely started by teak farmers, hunters or foragers and not the high temperatures alone.

“Thailand doesn’t really have forest fires. It’s teak farmers encroaching on land who don’t take care of their own farms. Teak leaves are falling right now, and they just let the leaves pile up instead of making fertilizer,” Suppawit said. “People who hunt for animals or forage for edible vegetables like puk whaan could be responsible for the fire as well.”

Suppawit also said a number of small forest animals died in the fire, especially boars.

“The entire ecology here will be heavily affected,” he said. “The fire made so much damage.”