Forest fire breaks out in SW.China's Sichuan, Yunnan
Vigilance needed in dry areas as risk of disasters rises: experts
Published: Mar 17, 2024 09:33 PM
Firefighters work to extinguish a forest fire in Yajiang, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, on March 17, 2024. Photo: IC

Firefighters work to extinguish a forest fire in Yajiang, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, on March 17, 2024. Photo: IC

China is witnessing wildfires in some regions, as a forest fire broke out in Yajiang, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, on Friday. While there have been no reports of casualties so far, media reports on Sunday stated that four people had died in two separate forest fires in Yunnan.

Experts pointed out that the recent frequent wildfires are closely related to climate conditions in the southwestern region of the country, and that given the reduced precipitation and rising temperatures, it is crucial to pay more attention to the possibility of increased forest fire risks in the near future.

A forest fire started around 5 pm on Friday near Baizi village in Yajiang county. Strong gusts hit the fire at around 2:30 pm on Saturday, reigniting the eastern front of the blaze, which quickly spread over multiple mountain ridges, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

In response, China activated a Level-IV emergency response and dispatched a working group composed of specialists from relevant departments to guide firefighting efforts, according to China Central Television (CCTV) on Sunday.

Currently, a total of 1,259 personnel from the national comprehensive fire rescue team and local professional firefighting teams are involved in firefighting efforts, while five helicopters have been deployed to conduct firefighting operations.

Additionally, the local forest fire brigade has sent 831 personnel and three helicopters as emergency reinforcement. Another 750 personnel have been urgently dispatched from Southwest China's Yunnan Province to provide additional support.

A total of 3,396 individuals from 11 villages affected by the fire have been evacuated. According to local authorities, as of 10 am on Sunday, there have been no reports of casualties and the cause of the forest fire is under investigation.

 "The smoke caused by the fire was very large and spread throughout the sky, so at first I thought it was a sandstorm," a tourist who is currently in Sichuan told the Global Times on Sunday, adding that he saw many rescue fire trucks rushing along the highway to the disaster area.

"I saw a small flame quickly spreading to the entire mountain in less than a minute. The strong wind at the scene exacerbated the spread of the fire," said another person in the local area, the Global Times learnt.

There have been frequent wildfires in the southwest region of the country recently. Local authorities in Southwest China's Yunnan Province reported on Sunday that four people have died in two separate forest fires.

According to CCTV News, a forest fire broke out in Yunnan's Lincang at 6:10 pm on Saturday, and was completely extinguished by 11:05 pm. Approximately 5.33 hectares were affected by the fire and three local  officials died during the firefighting.

Another person was killed in a forest fire that broke out in the city of Wenshan, Yunnan on Friday, according to the municipal publicity department, Xinhua reported.

"These wildfires in the southwest region can be attributed to local climate conditions. Since the beginning of this year, there has been an abundance of precipitation in the central and eastern regions of the country, while the southwest region has experienced relatively scarce rainfall," Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs, told the Global Times on Sunday.

Ma added that increases in temperatures and stronger winds may further cause wildfires to spread continuously, making them difficult to control.

According to media reports, a total of 221 forest fires, including 11 mountain fires that claimed two lives, occurred in Southwest China's Guizhou Province between February 10 and 21. All these fires have been extinguished as of February 22.

China's Ministry of Emergency Management warned on March 1 of complicated natural disaster risks in March, with the risk of forest fires highlighted. Provinces including Sichuan, Guizhou and Yunnan are facing dangerous levels of forest fire risks, the ministry said.

Analysts pointed out that special attention should be given to the recent heightened risk of wildfires in regions with low precipitation, particularly as the Qingming Festival approaches and the number of people gathering to clean up family tombs is expected to peak.

Ma told the Global Times that the combination of drought conditions and higher temperatures can lead to an increase in wildfire risks, especially in areas like the provinces of Guizhou and Yunnan, which have been experiencing extended drought.

Experts also stressed the importance of remaining vigilant in regions with higher precipitation levels, especially as spring approaches and the weather becomes drier with rapidly rising temperatures. "Once a forest fire occurs, it's actually quite difficult to control, so it is essential to take fire prevention measures in forests," Ma warned.