Wildfires raging on the slopes of Mount Lawu in East Java in August. A similar fire on Sunday has killed at least seven hikers. (Antara Photo/Siswowidodo)

Volcano Forest Fire Enters Fifth Day as Another Blaze Reported


AUGUST 26, 2015

Jakarta. Drought, strong winds and rough terrains have hampered efforts to fight forest fires on a volcano in Java that have raged since Saturday, Indonesia's disaster mitigation agency said.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho, spokesman for the National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said more fire hot spots have been detected on Mount Lawu, which straddles the border between Central and East Java.

As of Tuesday, most of the fires were spotted on the north and eastern side of the volcano located in East Java's Ngawi district, but as of Wednesday, fires have spread to Central Java's Karanganyar district on its southern face.

More than 250 forestry officials and volunteers were deployed to contain the blaze but lack of water sources and the area's remote location  ̶  a three to four hour trek from the nearest base camp  ̶  have hampered firefighting efforts.

Officials have also struggled to reach one particular fire located down a steep ravine.

Sutopo said flames have also engulfed another volcano, Mount Slamet in Central Java's Purbolinggo district, 200 kilometers west of Lawu, since early Tuesday.

A total of 20 fires have been ablaze on Mount Slamet, five of which have been put out.

"It takes seven to eight hours on foot to get to scenes of the fire. [Officials] are met with rough terrain, strong winds, dry weather and lack of water," he said.

The forest covering Mount Slamet last caught fire on Friday but was immediately put out.

The region around Lawu and Slamet 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.