The battle against forest fires continues as pollution levels rise

By The Nation | 04 April 2019

The Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency’s fire monitoring system, as of 2.42am, cited 275 hot spots in the region. The top five worst provinces were Mae Hong Son (114 hot spots), Chiang Mai (35), Lampang (35), Chiang Rai (33), and Phayao (20).

Air quality remained poor in Chiang Mai – which ranked second with an air quality index (AQI) of 280 in the ranking of the world’s worst polluted cities as of 1 pm – after China’s Shenyang that cited an AQI of 1,505.

Chiang Mai officials fought multiple forest fires in Samoeng district with the latest one extinguished on Wednesday evening, damaging 100 raises, while Ban Laowu firefighters in Wiang Haeng district called for back-up to fight an extensive blaze there.

Multiple fires on Doi Luang Chiang Dao in Chiang Dao district were all out while officials still had to inspect damage to rare plants and protected wildlife animals there.

In Phayao, there was 85 micrograms of PM2.5 – airborne particulates 2.5 microns or less in diameter – per cubic meter of air and an AQI of 187 – both figures of which were beyond Thai safety limits of 50 mcg in PM2.5 and of 100 in AQI.

Soldiers from the 34th Military Circle joined Mae Puem National Park officials and community volunteers to fight multiple forest fires including one in conserved forestland in Tambon Ban Sang of Muang Phayao that was put out on Wednesday after it destroyed 50 raises of forest land.

In Mae Hong Son with a PM2.5 level of 160 mcg at 8 am, firefighters continued to battle flames especially in the hard-hit Pang Mapha district.

During Wednesday’s meeting of all district chiefs to brainstorm solutions to forest fires and haze, governor Sirirat Chamupakarn called for a total ban on all outdoor burning, a full effort to put out forest fires, an investigation to find the person who created the fire, a fact-finding committee to probe the fire that cannot pinpoint the culprit, and the establishment of a tambon-level task force.

After that meeting, each district called its own meeting to pass on the policy while many village headmen noted that some forest fire incidents, especially in Pang Mapha, may be politically motivated, as some people have conflicts with some kamnans or village headmen and may want to remove their rivals from posts.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha earlier this week said that kamnans or village headmen who failed to curb forest fires and haze may be fired.

Meanwhile, the Pollution Control Department (PCD) at 9 am, put the 24-hour average of PM2.5 between 38mcg and 151mcg in nine northern provinces.

Tambon Jong Kham in Muang Mae Hong Son was worst off at 151 mcg followed by Tambon Wiang Phang Kham in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district (121 mcg) and Tambon Chang Pheuk in Muang Chiang Mai (118 mcg). Chiang Mai’s other three stations also cited high levels; Sri Phum and Suthep in Muang cited 110 mcg and 78 mcg while Chang Kerng in Mae Chaem cited 84 mcg.

The Chiang Mai Air Quality Health Index Center’s website ( at 9 am showed the hourly result of PM2.5 to be dangerously high in various surrounding districts with Tambon Yang Mern of Samoeng district being the worst off at 461 mcg followed by Tambon Mae Pong in Doi Saket district at 425 mcg.