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Wildfires damage Mount Popa hills

Mount Popa in haze caused by wild fires (Photo: Kyaw Win Swe)

A series of bushfires have ravaged the hills surrounding the popular travel destination and pilgrimage site Mount Popa, amid contradictory reports over whether the fires are still burning.

Local resident Kyaw Win Swe told DVB that the pockets of bushfires that began raging in the area one month ago have in the past few days become more prevalent.

“Previously, it was intermittent for about a month, but the fires have not stopped during the past week, ravaging almost all of the trees on the Saywin Hill,” said Kyaw Win Swe. He added that smaller trees had fared the worst, but that denser groves with larger trees had survived devastation

There are reportedly around ten bushfires in the Mount Popa vicinity – the volcano which according to Burmese folklore is the abode of powerful spirits, or nats – but the flames are apparently not a threat to the volcanic plug known as Taungkalat, a well-known pilgrimage site.

Buddhist monk Yuzana, patron of the Popa Lovers Association, claimed that the wildfire is dying out.

Mount Popa, as it can normally be seen (Photo: Wikicommons)

“The blaze in the surrounding hills is visible at night, and during the day the area is covered by haze. A common way to prevent the fire from spreading is to create firebreaks between the hills in the area by removing deadwood and dry leaves,” said Yuzana.

“The fire has pretty much died out in many areas, but is still strong on the Saywin Hill.”

Than Naing Oo, the administrator of the Mount Popa Conservation Committee, maintains that the fire has been extinguished.

“The fire has died out,” he told DVB.

He added that the fire could have been man-made, through negligence or intention. He suggested that illegal woodcutters could have had a hand in sparking the blaze as retaliation for official actions against them.