More than 4,000 so-called hotspots caused by slash-and-burn activities have been detected across the North as the "burning season" begins.
The 3rd Army Region's forest fire fighting command found 4,098 hotspots across the North using satellite technology between Jan 1-31. The unit reported that 1,517 of the hotspots broke out in forest reserves, 949 on agricultural land, 829 in conservation forests and 488 in agricultural land reform areas.
Maj Gen Prasitthipong Mooldee, deputy chief of the forest fire command centre, said the fine dust pollution level was measured throughout the North last month. In many areas, the PM2.5 level exceeded the "safe" level of 50 µg/m³.
The highest fine dust pollution was detected in the downtown Muang districts of Uttaradit, Phitsanulok and Nakhon Sawan.
Meanwhile, Internal Security Operations Command units across 17 northern provinces put out forest fires in 104 areas.
Units also went on foot patrols, created firebreaks and coordinated with the local communities. They also campaigned to raise public awareness about the dangers of forest fires and how they can be prevented.
With summer approaching, the army's forest fire-fighting command will continue to monitor the situation.
Prawatsat Chanthep, chief of Thap Lan National Park in Prachin Buri, said a forest fire had destroyed grassland and over 100 rai of eucalyptus trees owned by villagers. He said the fire also spread to national park areas along the Pha Men and Thap Prik mountain ranges.
Firefighters eventually brought the fire under control, Mr Prawatsat said.
According to local sources, some villagers had been burning forest areas as they hunted for wildlife.
Forest protection authorities have vowed to take legal action against those who set fires in forests or public areas.
If the parties that set a fire are farmers who receive state permission to grow plants in deteriorated forest land, they would be stripped of their right to farm there, the officials added.