Subscribe to our newsletter

     By signing up, you agree to our Terms Of Use.


    • About Us
    • |
    • Contribute
    • |
    • Contact Us
    • |
    • Sitemap

    Amid Severe Drought, 2 Dead in Over 200 Wildfires in Guizhou

    Coupled with human activities, extreme weather events have increased the vulnerability of Guizhou to wildfires. In the last two weeks alone, the province has reported 221 forest fire incidents.

    Fueled by challenging weather conditions and the worst drought in 60 years, southwestern China’s Guizhou province is battling a wildfire crisis that has left two firefighters dead, with 221 fire incidents reported in less than two weeks.

    In a report published Thursday, provincial emergency management authorities stated that all fires in Guizhou between Feb. 10 and 21 have been extinguished, while no significant damage was caused to critical infrastructure, including gas stations and railways. A detailed assessment of the damage is underway.

    Officials confirmed that 11 of the 221 fire incidents were forest fires, three more than the total number of wildfires in 2022, which affected 63.17 hectares (about 156 acres) of forested area in Guizhou. On Wednesday, two firefighters were killed during a rescue in Longyin Town, in the west of the province.

    Since Feb. 10, more than eight counties and villages have reported wildfire incidents. Most recently, a local secondary school in Xifeng County evacuated students Tuesday night as a fire near the campus on Tuanyuan Mountain spread rapidly.

    A member of staff at Xifeng No. 1 Middle School told Sixth Tone the fire was intense, with thick smoke rising into the air.

    “The forest fire was on the other side of the mountain, so we couldn’t see it at first. When we saw that the fire was quickly approaching the top of the mountain, we immediately evacuated the students,” the staff member said, adding that the local government also sent buses to ferry students home.

    After almost six hours of rescue efforts, the wildfire was extinguished early the next morning. No facilities were damaged by the fire, and the school resumed classes Wednesday afternoon.

    According to local authorities, the province mobilized 730 teams, including the armed police, fire departments, professional rescuers, and social rescue forces, deploying 9,200 personnel and nearly 40,000 pieces of equipment to tackle the multiple blazes.

    Rescue efforts have been complicated by the province’s karst landforms, steep mountain slopes, and complex terrain, making the battle against forest fires and the restoration of damaged vegetation particularly challenging.

    According to the provincial report, human activities, including smoking, agricultural burning, and the traditional custom of burning paper money to ancestors during Spring Festival, have been major triggers for many fire incidents in Guizhou. Following investigations, six local police departments reported Wednesday that 10 suspects have been detained.

    Under Chinese law, individuals who unintentionally cause fires in forest fire prevention zones face financial penalties of up to 3,000 yuan ($417), and those who cause fires resulting in serious forest damage and casualties could face up to seven years in prison.

    The report also noted that coupled with human activities, extreme weather events have raised the danger of wildfires in the area. Guizhou has experienced its most severe continuous drought in over 60 years since August 2022, leading to significant vegetation loss.

    With higher temperatures, reduced rainfall, and increased sunshine hours in 2023, along with three rounds of cold waves since the onset of winter, dead branches and leaves have accumulated, increasing combustible material.

    While the province continues to experience dry and windy weather conditions, maintaining a high alert for forest fires, domestic media reported that other provinces, including Yunnan, Sichuan, and Guangxi, are also at high risk for wildfires.

    Editor: Apurva.

    (Header image: A wildfire in Guiyang, Guizhou province, Feb. 21, 2024. Xinhua)