Probe closes in on park fire starters

Probe closes in on park fire starters

Forest protection officials said yesterday they were inching closer to identifying who was responsible for starting a major wildfire that destroyed at least 500 rai of forest in Thap Lan National Park.

The park covers 1.4 million rai, or about 2,245.88 square kilometres, in four districts of Nakhon Ratchasima and one district in Prachin Buri.

The fire was brought under control late on Monday night when rain helped douse the flames, national park chief Prawattisat Chanthep said.

However, park staff will have to keep watching out for signs of small fires reigniting in areas possibly still smouldering, he said. Of the 500 rai of forest destroyed by the fire, about 200 rai was natural forest, while the rest was for growing eucalyptus trees, he said.

"After questioning six people, park staff believe they are close to finding out who caused the wildfire," Mr Prawattisat said.

"If the culprits are found to be people granted the right to occupy forest land under the National Park Act, they could lose that right," he added.

People allowed to make use of parkland should try to help protect the park's natural resources, he said. In 2020, a wildfire destroyed about 7,000 rai of forest land in the park.

In Mae Hong Son, wildfire prevention teams were working round the clock to contain fresh bush fires, particularly in Pai district.

A high number of so-called hotspots were detected there, said Phongphira Chuchuen, chief of Muang district office. A total of 258 hotspots were detected in Mae Hong Son from Jan 1 to Tuesday, he said.

However, this figure was 641 fewer than the number detected during the same period last year, according to the provincial natural disaster prevention and mitigation office.

Meanwhile, more than 4,000 hotspots caused by slash-and-burn activities were detected across the North with the beginning of the "burning season".

The 3rd Army Region's forest fire fighting command found 4,098 hotspots across the North using satellite technology between Jan 1-31.

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