FIREFIGHTING experts from the US Forest Service (USFS) recently conducted a training seminar in managing wildland fires for some 50 personnel from the Philippines Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) through a program supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The Basic Fire Training program, held in Subic between July 18 and July 22, addressed wildland fire preparedness, forest fire response and management, and recovery of fire-damaged areas, the US Embassy in Manila said in a statement.
The initial group of 50 personnel from the Philippines will serve as lead responders in the event of future wildland fires, as well as conduct training for other DENR and BFP personnel in different parts of the country.
The program was arranged in response to a series of serious forest fires that broke out at the height of the El Niño-caused dry spell in March and April 2016, which burned more than 100 hectares in Mt. Apo Natural Park, Mt. Kanlaon, and Mt. Kitanglad.
Ironically, all three sites are designated priority sites, out of a total of seven, under USAID’s Philippines Biodiversity and Watersheds Improved for Stronger Economy and Ecosystem Resilience (B+WISER) program. During the Mt. Apo fire in particular, USAID explained, the agency was able to quickly provide equipment to local volunteers and later facilitate an assessment of the fire-damaged areas.
Philippine officials expressed their appreciation for the training and material support provided by USAID. “With this training, we can share what we learned with communities around Mt. Apo and encourage them to be our active partners in combating and even preventing forest fires,” Mt. Apo Park Operations Superintendent Eduard Ragaza said.
DENR Assistant Regional Director for Mt. Kitanglad Felix Mirasol agreed, saying, “This training will enhance the capability of field implementers in fighting forest fires, and make them better prepared when the next El Niño comes.”