Preah Vihear province’s Sangkum Thmei district governor Chum Puy is seeking to rebuild a wooden bridge spanning the Sdao river after a forest fire razed it on Friday in Sdao commune’s Trapaing Thlok village.
Puy said villagers may have started the fire in the Phnom Tnout Wildlife Sanctuary as either a means to illegally catch wild animals or clear land for cultivation.
“We need to construct a new wooden bridge for temporary use,” he said, noting that a steel bridge would be built in the first half of this year by the Preah Vihear provincial Department of Public Works and Transport.
Puy also called on citizens to immediately stop using fires as a way to hunt or clear land during the dry season, as it can easily spread and lead to serious damage to nearby property.
Sangkum Thmei district police chief Chuon Moeurn noted that two fires actually broke out on the day the bridge was razed.
He said the first took place at 10:30am, but Sdao commune police forces and residents extinguished the inferno.
However, another began in the same area at 2:30pm and villagers and authorities eventually brought it under control but its embers later spread to the bridge.
“We could not save the bridge. Police forces and villagers totalling 30 people formed a bucket brigade to collect water and extinguish the fire. We even cut down tree branches to hit the fire until it was extinguished.
“But that area abounds with bamboo forests, thereby leading embers in some thickets of bamboo to catch fire again. At 6pm on the same day, the fire spread to the wooden bridge,” Moeurn said.
Ben Davis, who is running an ecotourism project at the wildlife sanctuary, told The Post that residents in the area seemed unconcerned over directives from authorities not to use fire to clear land or hunt animals.
“I think if the villagers learn the law and realise that using fire is not safe, this will no longer happen. We should preserve, protect and conserve forests well. Everyone must abide by and apply the law and legal standards of the state,” he said.
“My family and I are worried about safety and security. But my family and I will live here because we love nature, forests and the wild animals here. I believe the vast majority of people in the world love nature and want to preserve and protect natural resources as I do.”
In a separate case in Kampong Thom province, 80ha of rice stubble burned and spread to a forest near the Sambor Prei Kuk archaeological site.
Provincial Fire Bureau chief Hay Kimhorn said: “We intervened to extinguish the fire and stop it from spreading to the temple and the Sambor Prei Kuk conservation project buildings, but the big fire from villagers’ land spread, affecting 84ha of protected forests near the site.”