An article by Pichayada Promchertchoo of CNA captures one of the hardest firefighting jobs in the world. In the forests of Samoeng, Thailand, for nearly two months, the firefighters have been on the front line of the ongoing battle against the burning forests in the mountainous province, which currently reports “hazardous” levels of air quality on the Air Quality Index. Some of them are a result of the drought and scorching heat while others were caused by crop burning – a common method used by farmers to clear farmland.
Every day, the firefighters leave their station at 6 am for various hot spots. Work is normally finished by 10 pm but sometimes it drags on until the small hours of the morning – often without a meal break.
Between Jan 1 and Apr 4, 6,437 hot spots were reported in nine provinces in northern Thailand. Data from the Geo-Informatics and Space Technology Development Agency shows Chiang Mai has the highest number of hot spots – 1,299 – followed by 1,174 in Mae Hong Son, 975 in Nan, 798 in Lampang, 644 in Tak, 554 in Chiang Rai, 379 in Phrae, 341 in Phayao and 282 in Lamphun.
On Friday, Chiang Mai recorded a “very unhealthy” PM2.5 air quality index reading of 293. On some days, it has been much worse. PM2.5 are microparticles with a diameter of fewer than 2.5 micrometres or about 3 per cent the diameter of a human hair.
The particles are one of the deadliest forms of air pollution and can penetrate deep inside the lungs, where they either remain for long periods or pass into the bloodstream unfiltered. Long-term exposure to these particles can result in cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and cancers.
These hot spots have resulted in a haze crisis which prompted Prime Minister Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to fly Chiang Mai earlier this week to address the situation.
Image for illustration.