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Economy

Fires consume 300 hectares of forests in Nyandarua, Nakuru counties

Fire consumes Menengai Forest in Nakuru on March 10, 2017. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NMG
Fire consumes Menengai Forest in Nakuru on March 10, 2017. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NMG 

More than 300 hectares of forests in Nyandarua and Nakuru have been destroyed in raging fires that have consumed huge sections of the forest cover and vegetation.

Although the prolonged drought has been cited as a contributing factor, in Nyandarua County, conservationists believe residents might have a hand in the fires.

There are fears that residents ignited some of the fires in cultural beliefs that this could induce the rains.

According to Nyandarua County Ecosystem Conservator Mrs Jennifer Situma, about 300 hectares of forests have been destroyed by fire in the county in separate incidents.

Deliberate move

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“We suspect that this is a deliberate move to burn forests in the belief that smoke from burnt vegetation will prompt rains to fall,” she said.

The fires started at Ndaragwa grasslands before spilling over to other forests in the county, according to the officer.

“Even Lake Ol Bollossat vegetation has been burnt,” she said.

As she spoke in Ol Kalou Town, there was a fire raging Geta and Aberdare forests in Kipipiri Constituency.

“I am wondering how the fires are erupting simultaneously. Even after putting off fire at one spot, another erupts in another spot,” she said.

In Nakuru, Lake Nakuru National Park and Menengai Crater Forest have been affected.

Flee homes

In the incident last week, residents of the Milimani estate were forced to flee their homes for safety as forest rangers battled with fire at Menengai Crater Forest.

Estate dwellers ran into panic on Friday evening after a dark cloud of smoke engulfed the whole estate and parts of Nakuru Town.

Acting Central Rift Kenya Forest Service (KFS) commandant Mr David Mtoro urged residents of the posh estate to move to safer places as a huge fire consumed more than 200 acres of forest.

The situation was worsened by furious winds that propelled the fast spreading fire to consume the indigenous forest towards the Nakuru GK prison.

KFS rangers who rushed to the scene embarked on putting out the fire before the fire engines arrived.

In Nyandarua, County Commissioner Samuel Kimiti has directed the county Ecosystem Conservator to liaise with the local community forest associations to get to the bottom of the matter.

“The ecosystem conservator should liaise with the Community Forest Associations. This will help us establish the truth and bring the culprits to book,” he said at his Ol Kalou Town office during a County Service Delivery Unit meeting.

Protect forests

The county administrator emphasized the need to sensitise the residents on the need to protect forests.

“There is a need to sensitise the local communities on the importance of protecting forests. They should also be informed that the cultural beliefs that burning forests brings rains are outdated,” said Mr Kimiti.

The county commissioner said the local administration was working jointly with the residents to put off the fires.

“We have mobilised locals who are working jointly with the community forests association and KFS officers to battle the fires,” he said.

In the neighbouring Laikipia County, farmers and residents living adjacent to forest reserves and private ranches have been warned against preparing their farms by burning debris, which results in spot fires.

According to the county ecosystem conservator Mr Mathews Ogutu, these are some of the measures they have put in place to control forest fires in the county during the dry spell.

He said the measures are aimed at ensuring that vital resources in the county are protected in the rampant spot fires in areas such as Marmanet, Shamanek, Lariak and Rumuruti forest blocks.

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