RAPU-RAPU, Albay: Heavy rains and the Philippine Air Force helicopter bucket operations were instrumental in containing the forest fire that threatened the lives and properties of 10,000 residents in this gold-rich town.
The fire, which was suspected to have started from the kaingin (slash and burn) farming, began on Friday and quickly spread to other areas due to strong winds brought by monsoon, prompting village officials to report the incident to the Albay Public Safety Emergency Management Office and Office of Civil Defense.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda sought the assistance of the PAF, which sent two helicopters equipped with bucket system to control the spread of the wild fire. A heavy downpour on Monday night was a blessing as well.
“It’s a miracle. Crisis is over. PAF dropped 45,000 liters of water but could not control the fire. We asked for cloud seeding but no plane can be found immediately. So God answered our prayers. God is good. He took care of cloud seeding. It rained hard enough,” Salceda said.
Salceda ordered the suspension of classes in affected areas such as in Poblacion, Moroc–borocan, Mananao, Guadalupe and Buenavista.
Some 3,000 people evacuated to safer grounds to save the precious lives of the people. Ba- tan, San Ramon, Bagaobawan, Dapdap and Bogtong were designated as temporary shelters.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development office in Albay distributed 200 bags of rice and canned goods to those affected by the fire.
Ltc. Luisito Angeles Jr., commander of PAF Tactical Operations Group 5 in Bicol, said the pilots who helped in the firefighting mission are Ltc. Robert Bitas, Maj. Jay-r Maca- sil, Maj. Jeff Guerra, Maj. Salvador Dee Jr., Maj. Christian Manglicmot and 1st Lt. Aarjayee Escote.