It took nearly 2,000 people two days, but two severe forest fires were extinguished yesterday in Heihe, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.
A fire started around 9:00 am on Monday in the Daling Forestry Farm, located in the Aihui District of Heihe, a border city nearly 600 kilometres northwest of provincial capital Harbin.
In the afternoon, another fire broke out in Baiyun Forestry Farm in Nenjiang County of the city.
The fires were brought under control, and no obvious fire could be spotted around 4 pm yesterday, according to a worker in the provincial Forest Fire Prevention and Control Centre.
"Clean-up work is beginning, and people are still at the scene in case the fire re-ignites," the worker said.
More than 1,400 people were fighting the blaze at Daling, which at one point on Monday night spread to about 25 square kilometres, Xinhua News Agency reported.
A woman from the fire prevention and control centre of Aihui District who refused to give her name confirmed the fire there was out and added: "We usually have to guard the area for three to seven days before we can finally withdraw all the firefighters."
High temperatures and wind gusts of force 7-8 on Monday made the fire spread quickly, she said, and a drought that began last autumn caused ditches to be empty, making the dried grass in them highly inflammable.
Local meteorological workers were also on the scene, trying to trigger artificial rainfall, she said.
She said the firefighters had difficulty because the location was basically inaccessible by road .
"We have two helicopters to help drop 13 firefighters each onto the spot at a time," she said.
"And the majority of people forced their way through the dense brush to the spot."
The cause of the fire was still unknown, she said, adding that normally fires are intentionally set during this time of year at that location to create an annual fire-prevention belt.
"But we did not ignite it this spring due to a long drought and windy weather as it might have got out of control," she said.
At Baiyun, nearly 600 firefighters were helped by a heavy shower yesterday afternoon, said Li Dongyuan, head of the farm.
Li said the fire was probably caused when local farmers burnt grass on wasteland to create arable land, which then went out of control.
The lack of rain since last autumn has put the northern forestry area within Heilongjiang Province, one of the country's largest lumber production bases, at high risk.
Thirty-one fires or fire alarms have been sounded this spring, of which 23 have been in Heihe, the provincial Forest Fire Prevention and Control Centre said.
And of the 23, only two evolved into actual fire disasters.
Source: China Daily