Dry Weather Causes Forest Fires in Hunan Province

March 6, 2008 12:00 am Last Updated: March 6, 2008 12:00 am

Severe snowstorms in China have led to extremely dry weather, which have caused high incidences of forest fires. The situation is particularly serious in central China's Hunan province. As of March 3, forest fires have claimed 22 lives and injured 13.

The provincial forest fire control headquarters said that since February 6, more than 1,500 forest fires have occurred in about 89 counties and cities in Hunan Province burning more than 10,000 hectares of forest. This is twice the area damaged by fires occurring at the same period last year.

Forest fires on March 1 and 2 were especially severe. More than 300 fires occurred every day, including several major fires causing serious casualties. According to the National Forest Fire Fighting Headquarters, in this spring, areas such as northeast China, Inner Mongolia, and southern provinces that have been hit by severe snowstorms, have the highest fire danger level since the establishment of the Chinese Communist regime.

According to China's state run media, the snowstorm a month ago has caused large areas of broken branches and bamboos, and frozen bushes and grass are extremely dry. Hence the combustible material on the ground surface has increased 2 to 10 times more than usual, far exceeding the safety limit of severe forest fires.

Meanwhile, the snowstorms have seriously damaged basic facilities for preventing fires such as fire watchtowers, monitoring and warning apparatuses, roads, and communications. In some areas, as much as 50 percent of such facilities have been damaged, seriously weakening the ability to prevent and extinguish fires.