Forest fire rages on Mount Kenya, Africa’s second highest peak

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said the fire began last Saturday and estimated that more than 80,000 hectares in the area had been destroyed.

Seen from a helicopter, smoke ascends from the moorlands at Kenya's highest mountain on 1 March 2019, during a fierce forest fire raging on Mount Kenya's national park for nearly a week as wildlife rangers, soldiers and teams of volunteers fight to stem the fire. Picture: AFP.

NANYUKI - Wildlife rangers, soldiers and huge teams of volunteers fought on Friday to stem a fierce forest fire raging on Mount Kenya national park for nearly a week.

Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), the government force in charge of national parks, said the fire began last Saturday, and estimated that more than 80,000 hectares around the wider Mount Kenya region had been destroyed.

“We have made good progress in containing the Mt Kenya fire,” KWS said in a statement, but noted reports of fresh outbreaks.

Helicopters flew shuttle runs to support the volunteers doing the dangerous work in the forest to stop the blaze. Others made giant water drops to stem the fire.

Above the plumes of smoke, the peak of the mountain - at 5,199 metres, or 17,057 feet high, Africa’s second highest after Kilimanjaro in Tanzania - was covered in ice and snow patches.

Firefighters included KWS rangers, as well as the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) and the army, the Kenya Defence Force (KDF).

“Hundreds of community members, volunteers, KWS and KFS rangers and the KDF teams currently are on the mountain clearing fire breaks and beating out fires,” the Mount Kenya Trust, a body set up to conserve the forests said on Friday.

The park, with the peak at its centre, straddles the equator, lying some 193 kilometres north-east of the capital Nairobi.

Mount Kenya was inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1997 by the United Nations, which lists climate change as being “probably one of the most serious long-term threats to the site.”