A wildfire that was reportedly caused by a lightning strike on Khao Chaphlu in Nakhon Nayok's Muang district on Tuesday evening was inching closer to residential areas on Thursday after having burned 700 rai of forest across three mountains.
Authorities fear strong winds in the area may cause the fire to spread towards Khao Yai National Park, which is now just three kilometres away from the blaze, said an informed source. The park is a part of the 6,152 square km of reserved areas that form Dong Phayayen-Khao Yai Forest Complex, which became Unesco's 184th Natural World Heritage site in 2005.
The Meteorological Department, meanwhile, warned that if this fire isn't contained within the next three to four days, Bangkok and its surrounding provinces will be affected by severe air pollution, as a cold spell from China is set to blow the smoke in the direction of the capital on April 6-7.
According to the department's weather forecasting division chief, Somkhuan Tonchan, Nakhon Ratchasima, Buri Ram, and Prachin Buri have been seriously affected by the smoke.
According to Nakhon Nayok governor, Bancha Chaowarin, yesterday, authorities expect to completely contain the fire in about five days, though all efforts were being made to ensure the operation wraps up in about three days.
The Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation has dispatched three helicopters to help fight the blaze, a source added.
A team of firefighters from Khao Yai National Park began moving on foot towards the fire zone on Thursday as the fire appeared to slow down, said Chaiya Huayhongthong, head of Khao Yai National Park.
However, he said the blaze might spread rapidly again if wind speeds pick up, adding authorities aren't too concerned about the fire's impact on wildlife, as the fire zone is located on a steep, mountainous area that isn't inhabited by endangered, larger animals, such as elephants.
Separately, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he had assigned Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda to travel to Nakhon Nayok to inspect the wildfire and instructed the armed forces to fully support the fire-fighting mission there.
The fire, which began on Khao Chaphlu, spread to Khao Laem and Khao Tabaek overnight on Tuesday and Wednesday.
As of press time on Thursday, the fire on Khao Chaphlu and Khao Tabaek was still visible, while the fire on Khao Laem was believed to have been brought under control.