Subscribe to our newsletter

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


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

    4 Dead as Wildfires Sweep Across Yunnan and Sichuan

    Authorities have attributed the heightened fire risk to dry weather, low rainfall, and human activities.

    Multiple wildfires have ravaged southwestern China’s Yunnan and Sichuan provinces over the past week leaving at least four dead. Authorities warned there continues to be a heightened risk due to recent dry weather, low rainfall, and human activities such as agricultural burning.

    The most recent outbreak was reported in Guangming Village in northern Yunnan on Monday, marking at least the fourth wildfire in the province within a week. While no casualties were reported, authorities said 208 personnel and 28 vehicles from the provincial forest fire brigade were dispatched to extinguish the blaze, which took almost 24 hours.

    Two days earlier in the same province, a wildfire spread across approximately 5.33 hectares in Linxiang District in southern Yunnan, leaving three officials involved in rescue efforts dead and another seriously injured. The blaze was brought under control the following day.

    In the neighboring Sichuan province, a forest fire in Yajiang County on Friday burned across several mountains, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Domestic media reported that more than 1,200 personnel are currently engaged in rescue efforts, while five helicopters have been deployed to aid firefighting operations.

    Known as the home of Chinese matsutake mushrooms, Yajiang County annually produces matsutake mushrooms valued at more than 70 million yuan ($9.7 million). According to a report in Shanghai-based news outlet The Paper, the fire could affect local villagers, as many matsutake-rich forests have been destroyed and it could take decades for them to recover.

    As of Sunday, 1,336 households and 4,903 individuals in Yajiang County have been safely relocated, according to local authorities. All open blazes in one of the three fire fields had been extinguished as of 6 a.m. Tuesday, while firefighting efforts continued in the other two zones.

    During the firefighting operations in Yajiang County, another fire erupted 140 kilometers to the east in Kangding City on Saturday. Strong winds at the scene impeded the progress of firefighters, while the fire line stretched approximately 12 kilometers from south to north. By noon Monday, authorities had successfully extinguished the fire in Kangding City.

    Wan Junliang, a 21-year-old university student in Kangding, told Sixth Tone: “Since Saturday, the sky has been gloomy and has looked more red than usual.”

    At present, the cause of the fires remains under investigation.

    After 221 fires broke out within 12 days in southwestern China’s Guizhou province in February, local authorities attributed the frequent wildfires to a combination of dry weather conditions and human activities.

    These include farmers using fire to clear their fields, as well as locals throwing away unextinguished cigarette butts and burning incense to pay respects to the dead. At least 10 individuals have been arrested in connection with these incidents.

    Since December 2023, both Yunnan and Sichuan provinces have experienced unseasonably dry weather. According to official data, Yunnan has suffered the most severe drought on record since 1961, with rainfall nearly 20% lower than the historical average. In Sichuan province, the average precipitation has been 16% lower — and the average temperature 1.2 degrees Celsius higher — than in previous years.

    In early March, the central government released a high-risk forest fire warning for the western and southern parts of Sichuan, the western part of Guizhou, and the central and northern parts of Yunnan.

    Contribution: Lü Xiaoxi; editor:Apurva.

    (Header image: A firefighter battles a wildfire in Dali, Yunnan province, March 19, 2024. VCG)