A fire rages out of control on the slopes of Mount Merbabu in Central Java in the early hours of last Friday. The blaze, which lasted five days, was finally doused on Sunday, but another fire, on nearby Mount Lawu, continues to burn since it began on Saturday. (Antara Photo/Andreas Fitri Atmoko)

Honey Hunters May Be to Blame for Central Java Forest Fire, Minister Says


AUGUST 25, 2015

Jakarta. Honey-harvesting activities by local farmers could be behind a massive forest fire that has ravaged the forested slopes of Central Java’s Mount Lawu volcano since Saturday, officials say.

“The fire started at 8 p.m. on Saturday … on the north face of Lawu,” Environment and Forestry Minister Siti Nurbaya said on Tuesday as quoted by Detik.com.

She added the area was a popular among locals looking to harvest honey, a practice that involves setting fires to smoke bees out of their hives in order to get at the honey.

Siti said it was likely that a prolonged dry spell and high temperatures had allowed the fires to spread out of control.

Officials estimate that 70 hectares of forest have been burned down since the fire started, with firefighters still struggling to put out the blaze.

“Forestry officials and local volunteers have been trying to contain the fire. They have also created a fire line to stop the fire from spreading,” Siti said.

Straddling the border between Central and East Java, the region around Lawu and the adjacent Mount Merbabu are prone to forest fires, particularly during the dry season.

Strong winds and unseasonably high temperatures brought on by El Niño have exacerbated the problem this year, officials say.

Six fires have been detected since the start of this month, all but one of which have since been put out.

A five-day blaze on the slopes of Merbabu last week destroyed 90 hectares of forest before it was finally doused on Sunday.

As of Tuesday, both volcanoes remain closed to hikers and other visitors.