It was a spectacular sight, and equally horrifying. The whole mountain was ablaze. Loud crackling sound rang through out the cove as trees were consumed. It was so far the largest bush fire or wildfire Nagsasa cove has ever seen.
Bush fires, started by hunters trying to flush out their game, are pretty common in the coves including Nagsasa. I saw reminders of it during my previous visit. The locals have gotten used to it as it happens every year and has become part of the life cycle of the cove. Usually it stayed at a distance from the inhabited parts. But as we all know, with Nature, nothing is really that predictable.
Some of our friends have spotted the small fire a kilometer or so in land earlier that day. On the way to the cove, I also spotted several burning patches on the mountains. According to our campsite caretaker, the fire dies when it reached a certain point, like a stream that acts as a natural fire barrier. However that night there was a another ingredient to the deadly mix: very strong winds, the same ones that created huge waves at the mouth of the coves earlier that day (we were forced to turn back, the movie the "Perfect Storm" came to mind. But that's another story).
By dinner time the fire has gotten aggressive, we can see the glow from afar and it kept getting bigger and bigger. I kept prodding my friends to check it out. Some of us even brought their tripod and camera and jokingly remarked, "Night shoot!". It was only when we reached the open area at the center of the cove that we saw the extent of the fire and how it was proceeding faster to where we are. My brother, whom I dragged here straight out of an 11-hour flight, muttered "Just great, huge waves this morning and now a huge bonfire".
I immediately went back to the campsite and talked to the caretaker, who in turn assured me not to worry because we are at a safe distance from the fire. Everyone was still in a jolly camp mood, most were oblivious to whats happening at the backwoods.
The fire kept raging, fueled by the dry grasses and fanned by the strong winds. I went around some of the groups and told them about the fire at the back. Within thirty minutes from the time we checked it out, it was already less than 200 meters from where we are. The fire is advancing both at our rear and our right.
By this time it got everyone's attention and people started to break camp. Some simply plucked their tents out of the ground. Heavy smoke has already enveloped campsite. I told my brother to simply bring the essentials and leave the rest behind, then we started heading to the camp site at the south of the cove.
We waited for close to 4 hours before the fire waned. It got close to our campsite, too close in fact. Part of area where people camp at the back of the main campsite was burned. Thankfully, nobody was hurt. Heavy smoke was still lingering when we got back to the campsite at midnight. I was dead tired and dozed off the moment I lay my back on our sand filled tent.
The next day we saw the extent of the damage. Some of trees in our favorite sunrise location are still burning. The whole mountain on the north side of the cove was black and brown, gone is the green grass cover.
Nature will surely rebound, as it always has. Fires like this will still happen in the future unless these hunters are caught. It may be impractical to police this huge expanse of a mountain range at the moment so educating the communities around the area could be a good start.