, NYAHURURU, Kenya, Feb 9 – A fierce fire that has destroyed about 500 hectares of forest cover at the Ndaragwa and Abardare forests is now under control.
The fire that started on Sunday afternoon by suspected honey gatherers at the moorland area of the Aberdare National Park has been put out, thanks to a combined effort of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) officials, the Kenya Forest Service, the provincial administration, community forest associations and the public living around the forests.
According to the Kenya Forest Service Assistant Director in-charge of the Mountain Conservancy John Wachihi, the blaze in the Ndaragwa Forest is believed to have been started by a cigarette smoker just next to the main Nyahururu-Nyeri road.
The fire spread very fast, aided by strong winds.
"We suspect someone must have been smoking by the roadside and threw the cigarette butt on the dried grass," he said.
He cautioned residents against lighting fires near forest areas saying this may cause great destruction to the environment. He also cited a case in which similar fires have been reported at Rumuruti forest in Laikipia West district where herdsmen were blamed for the destruction.
In the Aberdare National Park fire, he said, it was believed that some people looking for honey were behind the incident that made hundreds of wild animals to flee from the area and were now a threat to the neighbouring communities.
Hoe noted that efforts by Kenya Forest Service Officers KFS) and the local community were unable to contain the fire had been spread by strong winds.
His sentiment were echoed by the region Game Warden Robbert Njue who regretted that a large area of undercover and indigenous trees have been reduced to ashes by the blazing fire.
He said: “We are calling on members of the public and especially those neighbouring the forest to observe precaution not to light any fire near these areas.”