Two-day hill fire in Tai Po country park put out

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 February, 2014, 5:32pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 05 February, 2014, 5:17am

A hill fire which blazed for two days in Pat Sin Leng Country Park in Tai Po was finally extinguished at midday yesterday, about 43 hours after it broke out, the Fire Services Department said.

Days of work by 130 firefighters, and more than 100 water drops finally overcame the blaze, which affected 145 hectares of land between Ping Shan Tsai and Shun Yeung Fung in the park.

Firefighters are now investigating the cause of the blaze, which started at about 5pm on Sunday on a hillside in Ping Shan Tsai. The yellow fire-danger warning was in effect amid unseasonably hot temperatures on Sunday, indicating a high risk of fire.

The fire front stretched as long as 800 metres on Monday night, a government spokeswoman said.

But very few trees were destroyed, Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department staff said after a site visit yesterday. The blackened area had mostly been covered with grass and shrubs.

Roy Ng Hei-man, assistant campaign manager for the Conservancy Association, said he was worried that the burnt areas, classified as scrubland by the department, might in fact be seasonal wetland or marsh, which can have high ecological value.

The government spokeswoman said it was not known whether any seasonal wetland had been destroyed. But she said the ecologically sensitive site at Sha Lo Tung, near the park, was "unaffected" as the wind was blowing the smoke the other way.

Firefighters had to withdraw on Monday night as they struggled with the rugged terrain in the dark. They resumed their efforts yesterday morning, with some 25 fire engines deployed, while Government Flying Service helicopters made 108 water drops yesterday. The service deployed 22 people yesterday and today.

The blaze came a week before the anniversary of the 1996 Pat Sin Leng hill fire, which killed two teachers and three pupils from a school in Ma On Shan.

The effects of the 1996 Pat Sing Leng fire remained well below those of the catastrophic Tai Lam hill fire in 2006, in which about 460 hectares of land were left blackened and 65,000 trees destroyed. But there were no injuries in the 2006 blaze.