Team of 134 firefighters from various branches of military working to contain blaze, says Tanzania National Parks Authority
DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania
More than 130 firefighters in Tanzania have been dispatched to Mount Kilimanjaro to combat a wildfire that has been raging for nearly a week, authorities announced Friday.
The Tanzania National Parks Authority (TANAPA) issued a statement that said the fire broke out near the Indonet-Rongai area in the Rombo district.
A team of 134 firefighters from various branches of the military are tirelessly working to contain the blaze, it added.
Catherine Mbena, TANAPA’s senior conservation officer in charge of communications, said the exact cause of the fire, which started Sept. 3, is still under investigation.
“We are still in the process of determining the root cause and will inform the public once we have sufficient information,” she told Anadolu.
Mbena acknowledged the important role of residents in the Rombo district in supporting firefighters, security and defense personnel in their efforts to control the fire.
Despite the ongoing firefighting efforts, tourism activities around Kilimanjaro continued uninterrupted, Joachim Kimario, a resident of Rombo, told Anadolu.
Although several hectares of forest have been destroyed, he said the fire is largely under control.
He noted that “the firefighters have successfully managed to contain the blaze, although they faced challenges such as shifting high winds.”
Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest free-standing mountain at 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level, is particularly susceptible to wildfires due to recurrent droughts exacerbated by the escalating effects of climate change and increased human activities, according to experts.
The mountain, which attracts approximately 50,000 tourists annually, has experienced frequent fire incidents.
Wildfires and rampant illegal logging have disrupted the ecosystem surrounding the park, affecting the forest belt around the mountain area, said authorities.
Last October, roaring flames engulfed the mountain, resulting in extensive destruction of the natural forest near a resting camp used by tourists on the Mandara Horombo hiking route, posing a serious threat to the region’s flora and fauna.
Officials refrained from disclosing the extent of the devastation.
Faced with increasing and worsening wildfires due to the effect of climate change, the risk of wildfires has never been higher. Scientists are sounding the alarm that human-caused climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, from scorching heat waves to droughts.
Kilimanjaro, famous for its iconic snow-capped summit, is a global tourist attraction. The forests surrounding its majestic peak are an integral part of the national park and Kilimanjaro National Park’s inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List is well deserved.