Mount Kilimanjaro fires largely contained, following military and community efforts

The fires destroyed 12.7 square miles of forest land.

November 4, 2022, 4:24 PM

Tanzania deployed its national defense force to Kilimanjaro to contain wildfires that have swept across the mountain reserve.

The fast-spreading fires, which were first spotted in the early morning of Oct. 21 near the Karanga area -- a popular tourist point on the southern side of Africa's highest peak -- raged for almost two weeks despite containment efforts from locals and Tanzanian authorities.

"Following the fire that continues to burn in the Kilimanjaro Reserve, the Chief of the Defence Forces, General Jacob John Mkunda, has ordered the Tanzanian National Defence Forces (TNDF) to participate in an operation to extinguish the fire that continues to disturb," announced Colonel Gaudentius Ilonda, director of information for Tanzania National Defence Forces in a statement to ABC News.

PHOTO: Wildfires burn on Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro, Oct. 29, 2022 in this still image taken from social media video.
Wildfires burn on Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro, Oct. 29, 2022 in this still image taken from social media video.
Friday Muyo via Reuters

"TNDF officers and soldiers have already arrived at Siha and Mwika areas in Kilimanjaro region ready to start the fire extinguishing operation. TNDF will fully cooperate with other security defence agencies, various stakeholders and citizens to ensure that the fire is controlled early before it causes serious damage to the park," the statement continued.

Approximately 500 locals, tour operators, conservationists, firefighters and Tanzania National Parks Authority Staff are assisting with containment efforts.

Windy and dry conditions are said to have exacerbated the flames, however the cause of the fires are yet to be established.

Videos posted on social media show large flames engulfing forests and vegetation around the mountain. Herman Baitho, a Tanzania National parks official said he is "sure" human activity was to blame: alluding to poachers, local "honey hunters" or mountain climbers who may have ignited the fire.

PHOTO: A fire broke out on Oct. 21, 2022 on the slopes on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, in this picture taken on Oct. 30, 2022 and obtained from social media by Reuters on Nov. 2, 2022.
A fire broke out on Oct. 21, 2022 on the slopes on Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, in this picture taken on Oct. 30, 2022 and obtained from social media by Reuters on Nov. 2, 2022.
European Union/ Copernicus Senti/via Reuters

There have been no reported casualties so far, and residents of the Hai district of Mount Kilimanjaro region told ABC News they are still seeing smoke into this morning. Over 700 acres of land has been destroyed, according to Tanzania National Parks Authority.

The wildfires come as a new UNESCO report lists Mt.Kilimanjaro among UNESCO World Heritage sites and among Africa's last remaining iconic glaciers that are set to vanish by 2050. The fires also come two years after another fire broke out on the mountain reserve, destroying 95 square kilometres of forest land and vegetation in a week.

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