Village-watch teams told to be vigilant as firefighters withdraw from Thailand’s northern province

By: Tossapol Boonpat | 02  May 2019


MAE HONG SON (The Nation) – Mae Hong Son governor Sirirat Chamupakarn has instructed village wildfire-watch teams to remain vigilant even though the province’s 61-day ban on outdoor fires ended on Tuesday and the level of fine dust particles in the air was below the safe limit for the first time in two months.

The Pollution Control Department (PCD) at 9 am yesterday put the 24-hour average of PM2.5 – airborne particulates 2.5 microns or less in diameter – at between 24 and 114 micrograms per cubic meter of air in nine northern provinces.

Tambon Jong Kham in Muang Mae Hong Son was at 38mcg – within the Thai safe limit of 50mcg (the World Health Organisation safe limit is 25mcg).

Tambon Wiang Phang Kham in Chiang Rai’s Mae Sai district was worst off with 114mcg, followed by Tambon Wiang in Muang Chiang Rai at 111mcg, Tambon Nai Wiang in Muang Nan at 67mcg and Tambon Ban Tom in Muang Phayao at 63mcg.

In Chiang Mai’s Muang district, Tambon Chang Pheuk and Tambon Sri Phum cited 57mcg and 55mcg respectively.

Firefighters continued tackling forest fires yesterday in Mae Hong Son province, where there were 10 hotspots according to a satellite image released at 2.33am – five in Muang, four in Pai and one in Pang Mapha districts.

At a meeting on Tuesday to conclude the ban on outdoor fires, it was reported that fires in Mae Hong Son had damaged 203,889 rai (32,622 hectares) of forestland from January 1 to March 16 and that there had been 1,499 hotspots in the province from January 1 to April 29.

At the meeting, Sirirat called on village wildfire-watch teams to remain vigilant for newly sparked fires during the dry season, now that backup firefighters and soldiers have been withdrawn.

In Phayao province, where the weather is still dry and temperatures are above 40 degrees Celsius, people were still battling many forest fires, including a major blaze near Doi Luang in Muang district that ignited on Monday and has already destroyed more than 100 rai of forestland.

Officials and volunteers continued working to put out the Doi Luang fire in order to protect farms and the Champathong Waterfall, and hope to have it completely extinguished by tomorrow, leaving the flames in hard-to-reach areas to burn themselves out.