The tallest mountain in Africa has a large fire burning on its slopes, with strong winds fanning the blaze and blowing smoke around the heights.
The fire broke out on Sunday on the mountain slopes, and firefighters assisted by locals and students were still battling to contain it on Monday, the National Parks service (Tanapa) said.
Their efforts have been hampered by the altitude as well as strong winds and dry weather which have caused the fire to spread fast.
“The fire is still going on and firefighters and locals are continuing their efforts to contain it,” said Pascal Shelutete, a Tanapa official.
The blaze started in the Whona area, a rest centre for climbers on the mountain, Shelutete said in a statement posted on Twitter. The cause of the fire is not yet clear, said the BBC.
“The fire is big, and they are continuing to fight it,” Alex Kisingo, deputy head at the College of African Wildlife Management located near the mountain, told Reuters.
“The college has sent 264 staff and students to help fight the fire,” Kisingo said. “They are working with local authorities to help deliver food and water to the firefighters.”
The parks authority said in a statement that it had taken “every step to make sure that the fire will not endanger the lives of tourists, porters and tour guides”.
The frequency of these fires “is a warning sign that we need to take urgent and effective measures to control fires,” Frank Luvenda, executive secretary of the Tanzania Environment Agency, told DW.
Authorities in Tanzania have not yet confirmed the cause of the current fire. Blazes in the area sometimes begin because of lightning strikes, or tourists’ campfires getting out of control. Given the lack of tourists because of the coronavirus pandemic, this seems an unlikely cause.
Although the current fire will have limited consequences on local wildlife, it is part of a worrying trend of larger, more frequent fires – that could be disastrous for local wildlife.
Mount Kilimanjaro, which is nearly 6,000m high is a popular tourist destination and thousands of people climb it every year.
The authorities in Tanzania suspect that porters who were warming food for a group of mountain climbers may have accidentally started a fire that broke out on the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro.
“Though we are still investigating, it seems the fire that was lit to prepare food for the tourists torched the dry vegetation in the area and spread quickly,” said Tanzania National Parks official Pascal Shelutete.
“The fire is now under control and we are ensuring that climbing activities are not affected,” he added.