AUTHORITIES on Monday were struggling to contain a blaze that has destroyed 17 hectares of community forest in Siem Reap province, as the hunt began for five people suspected of starting the fire, officials said.
Provincial Fisheries Department Director Tim Savuth, who is responsible for the area in question – a section of forest in Kampong Phluk commune that floods during the wet season – said the fire began on Saturday after visitors left behind smouldering charcoal.
“The fire was caused by people from other places,” he said. “They entered the forest to fish or hunt for birds and then carelessly left hot charcoal in the forest.”
He confirmed that his staff is cooperating with local authorities to track down five people thought to be responsible, and that local villagers were working with officials to help contain the blaze on Monday afternoon.
“The area has no water,” Tim Savuth said. “We had to travel about a kilometre to fetch water from a nearby village to put the fire out, but the fire became larger because of the winds.”
The fire did not claim any houses nearby, but officials remain concerned that it could endanger more of the forest and nearby villages.
Also Saturday, a rice storage house at Pursat provincial prison was destroyed by a small fire. Ngoun Lay, chief of the prison, said the shed caught fire around 4:15pm, but was put out before it could spread to any prison cells.
“No one was injured during the fire, and the prisoners stayed in their cells without reacting or wanting to escape from prison,” he said.