Fires around the Bat Forest: August Week 4
It has been a tumultuous last week here at Kasanka – a huge fire ignited last Tuesday morning in the swamps near the bat forest and continued to smoulder for days. Unfortunately on the last day of burning the firebreak through the swamp beside Fibwe, a fire escaped and with the hot gusty conditions we’ve experienced here, the blaze quickly got out of control. A Kinda baboon research member’s tent and shelter went up in flames on Tuesday lunch time – luckily no one was hurt and the rest of Kinda was saved. We were able to stop the fire from engulfing the northern and western ends of the forest by fighting it off and back-burning along the northern and western firebreaks.
Meanwhile, a separate fire in the Bupata area was ignited by poachers and spread – unfortunately taking the Bupata guard hut with it. The fires merged and travelled down toward Pontoon campsites – I’m very glad to say that none of them were affected however and all are still intact thanks to some hard work by everyone involved.
It was all hands on deck and frantic driving to water sources to refill the water packs, buckets and any sort of container to try to fight the flames. It’s absolutely terrifying how quickly the flames can jump from place to place, all dependant on luck and the direction of the wind. We watched the fire coming towards us from Pontoon 1 – a huge raging crackling fury of flames which was thoroughly intimidating! Luckily the wind was in our favour and the flames didn’t jump the river.
That night we also saw flames to the east of Wasa – another poacher fire – however we had burnt good firebreaks in this area only the week before so were spared another fire front.
The next day and the following three days were spent in the bat forest with the pump flooding areas where the fire had moved underground and was burning out the roots of large trees. We have lost a couple of trees however thanks to the hard work of everyone most of the bat forest has been saved as well as the bat hides.
It has been over a week that the infrastructure team have been out in the park trying to put the fire out. Now just a few smouldering patches of the peat swamp remain problematic, so the pump is working hard, flooding areas.
With the fire clearing large areas, the animals all look really surprised to be able to see so far and don’t seem to know what to do with themselves. Thankfully as devastating as a fire can be, new growth always seems to follow quickly and we are already seeing green shoots appearing through even the most blackened areas.
“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire”
– Charles Bukowski