Govt opts for helicopter as fire rages at the Kili

15Oct 2020
By Guardian Reporter
The Guardian
Govt opts for helicopter as fire rages at the Kili

​​​​​​​EVEN with 500 volunteers battling to put out a fire outbreak on Mount Kilimanjaro, the area was still burning at Kifunika Hill midday yesterday, with the fire on the upper reaches of the mountain seen from more than ten kilometers away.

Dr Hamisi Kigwangalla.

As efforts continued to end the outbreak, Natural Resources and Tourism minister Dr Hamisi Kigwangalla directed the Tanzania National Parks (TANAPA) to urgently obtain a helicopter to help contain the situation.

The minister expressed the need to boost the conservator’s capacity to contain wildfires by acquiring relevant equipment and further drill its fire-fighters.

Speaking here after receiving a report on the inferno engulfing parts of the upper reaches of Mount Kilimanjaro since Sunday, the minister said he had already ordered the purchase of a helicopter.

The firefighting effort was being conducted with outdated equipment and not convenient for the environment, hence taking too long to snuff to expanding flames, he said.

Copters are used in fire fighting by being fitted with a helicopter bucket, a specialised container suspended on a cable to deliver water for dropping from above. Each bucket has a release valve on the bottom.

“I have directed them (TANAPA) to also improve infrastructure and put new, bigger and modern fire extinguishers in the protected areas,” he said.

Dr Kigwangalla directed that TANAPA buys the copter in collaboration with the Kilimanjaro National Park (KINAPA) as standby equipment, even in the aftermath of the current outbreak.

While preparing for the purchase of aerial firefighting equipment, the two parastatals should be mindful of the terrain, extinguishing fire in a mountainous environment.

As for the effect of the blaze, the minister said about 1.6 per cent of the mountain zone national park had been affected so far, noting that tourism activities were not intensely affected.

“It is an area with short bushes where species like snakes and lizards inhabit, while climbing and descending of the Kili continued unhindered,” he said.

Paschal Shelutete, TANAPA senior assistant commissioner for communications, said on Tuesday that initial investigations by security organs on the cause of fire pointed to potters who after warming food for tourists, did not put it down completely.

The fire erupted at Wahona area, a resting camp for climbers using Mandara and Horombo routes to scale the mountain, which attracts about 50,000 climbers annually. It is the highest mountain in Africa and the highest free-standing mountain in the world at 5,895metres above sea level and about 4,900 metres above its plateau base.

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