Police have arrested a Vietnamese man for inadvertently setting fire to 30 hectares of forest while burning trash at home.
Phan Dinh Thanh, 46, of Nghi Xuan District, Ha Tinh Province, will be held for at least four months as the police probe his violation of fire prevention. The detention can be extended if police find enough evidence for charges to be pressed against him.
According to investigators, Thanh set fire to trash in his family’s garden near Hong Linh Mountain last Friday afternoon.
But with a heat wave gripping the central region and a particularly dry and hot foehn wind blowing, the fire quickly got out of control and spread to the nearby acacia and pine forests.
Thanh summoned his neighbors for help but they were unable to stamp it out.
Local authorities mobilized more than 1,000 firefighters, soldiers and policemen to help fight the blaze. By 10:30 p.m. on Friday they managed to bring it under control, but fires broke out again and again, and were completely extinguished only at around 10 a.m. Sunday.
By then over 30 hectares (74 acres) of pine, acacia and eucalypt trees had been burned down.
Firepolice and soldiers fight a fire that broke out in a forest in Ha Tinh Province, June 28, 2019. Photo by VnExpress/Duc Hung.
Senior Lieutenant-Colonel Nguyen Quang Thanh, head of the Nghi Xuan District police department, said anyone causing a fire would be punished based on the extent of damage, facing criminal charges if it exceeds VND100 million ($4,300) and fines otherwise.
In Thanh’s case, the consequences are serious enough for criminal charges, he said.
“Thanh is well aware of what he has done and has expressed remorse. He also wants to tell others, especially those living near forests, to be careful when destroying garbage by burning.”
Firefighters continued to keep vigil on Hong Linh Mountain as of Monday evening to make sure a fire does not break out again.
The mountain has 9,700 hectares of forest, which is home to 559 plant species and 657 animal species.
Several fires have broken out in the central region amid recurring heat waves.
Ha Tinh itself suffered two more fires last Sunday in Duc Tho District and lost 12 hectares of forests.
Four fires broke out last Friday in over 100 hectares (247 acres) of pine and acacia forests in Thua Thien-Hue Province, and took until Saturday morning to be put out.
Also on Friday a series of forest fires were reported in other parts of the central region from Da Nang City to Ha Tinh, threatening the 500kV transmission line. Electricity of Vietnam cut power in many places to ensure safety as firefighters swung into action.
The National Center for Hydro-Meteorological Weather Forecast has said a tropical depression would bring heavy rains down the region from Tuesday.