A fire that raged Kenya’s Aberdare National Park for two days straight has been put off after torching hundreds of hectares of wilderness, a state forest official has said.
The blaze started on Saturday with scores of forest rangers, firefighters and volunteers struggling to control the fire from spreading amid increasing suspicions of arsonry.
The park was engraved in history when Britain’s Elizabeth II, then a princess on a 1952 visit to Kenya, received news of her father’s death while staying at the Treetops hotel, a remote game-watching lodge built high into a tree in the Aberdare forest.
“The fire is completely suppressed,” Samuel Ihure, the regional head of the Kenya Forest Service, told AFP, adding that roughly 600 hectares (1,480 acres) of bushland was burnt.
Rhino Ark, a Kenyan conservation charity earlier said it had sent in helicopters to conduct aerial surveys of the area to estimate the extent of damage to the forest cover.
“Thirty-five trained firefighters have been deployed by chopper on the southern fireline,” the group said via Twitter on Monday.
“We have firefighters who are doing a decent job up there. So far so good, they are managing to control it but it has not been completed,” Rhino Ark official Adam Mwangi told AFP.
Definitely it is a fire caused by human activities,” Mwangi revealed as speculation mounted about the possibility of arson.
The Aberdares park lies some 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital Nairobi in the Aberdare mountain range.
It boasts of its spectacular waterfalls and lush bamboo jungles as well as a variety of wildlife including leopards, elephants and critically endangered black rhinos.
The Aberdares have been ranked the third highest mountain range in Kenya, hitting a summit of just over 4,000 metres (over 13,100 feet).
In recent years concern has increased over a contentious proposal before parliament to allow politicians to determine if public forest can be carved out and given for private interests.
The amendment to the Forest Conservation and Management Act –- reforms passed after decades of rampant land clearing — has sparked significant community anger and sparked fears that it could result in unchecked logging and environmental destruction.