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Altezza Travel donated firefighting equipment to Kilimanjaro National Park

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Altezza Travel has donated six firefighting containers equipped with essential gear for rapid response to bushfires in Kilimanjaro Park. These containers enable park rangers to equip 600 volunteers within a few hours.

We proposed the installation of these containers to the National Park Authority following severe forest fires on Kilimanjaro in 2020 and 2022. Those fires burned a total of 12,500 hectares, which is 15% of the entire national park area. The fires destroyed not only wildlife and vegetation but also reached Horombo Camp on the Marangu route, destroying several climbers' huts within a few hours and putting Kilimanjaro expeditions in danger. We don't want this to happen again.

How did the idea to install firefighting containers come about?

During the fires, around 200 of our guides, porters, and managers joined the rangers in battling the flames. We spent roughly $20,000 on these efforts, covering a week’s worth of salaries and three daily meals for the team. These events happened right after the COVID-19 pandemic, forcing us to dip into our reserve funds to cover all expenses.

We later met with the management of Kilimanjaro National Park to discuss how to minimize fire risks in the future. The experienced rangers explained that eliminating fire threats completely is impossible due to the national park's proximity to densely populated areas and the constant risk of an unextinguished cigarette or a piece of glass igniting a fire.

Fires sometimes occur naturally due to extreme heat and dry grass. While fires have always been a part of Kilimanjaro, the recent ones were particularly severe, causing significant harm to the ecosystem and threatening climbing expeditions. The only way to prevent such outcomes in the future is to put out fires immediately after they begin.

In 2020 and 2022, we couldn’t do this as efficiently as we would like. Finding equipment for volunteers—shovels, hoes, and chainsaws—was challenging. Gathering enough gear for 200 people and delivering it to the fire sites was difficult. This part of Tanzania lacks large stores for such equipment, so we had to search local markets and ask volunteers to bring their own. Because of this, we could only join the rangers' efforts the next day.

Our discussions with national park officials led to the idea of installing firefighting containers. These containers, equipped with necessary gear, would allow us to quickly mobilize our volunteers and respond to fires, protecting both the ecosystem and the people on the mountain.

With the containers installed, we can assemble and equip a team in less than a couple of hours. Rangers will notify Altezza Travel and other operators, and we will alert our mountain teams and provide transportation for volunteers. All the necessary gear will be waiting for them at the park gates. Within 8-10 hours, 600 volunteers will be assisting the rangers on the slopes of Kilimanjaro. We hope this team will be sufficient to contain any fires shortly after they are detected.

What's inside the containers?

Each container holds equipment for 100 people. This includes hoes, shovels, machetes, and chainsaws. Forest fires on Kilimanjaro are not extinguished with water—there are no specialized aircraft, and fire trucks can't be used due to the lack of roads in the park and the scale of the fires. The only way to control a fire is by creating firebreaks to prevent it from spreading to adjacent areas.

In Kilimanjaro, reaching the fire sources can be challenging. The fire sites are often tens of kilometers from the park entrances, and the only way to get there is on foot, as building roads is prohibited. Volunteers carry all their equipment. The trek takes four to six hours, after which they begin digging firebreaks. With breaks for sleep and rest, the team works until the fire is fully contained.

Where did we install the containers?

The containers are installed at each of the six national park entrances. A fire can start anywhere on Kilimanjaro, so the first team of volunteers will head to the closest point of ignition. For example, if a fire starts near Horombo Camp like in 2022, two teams would simultaneously set out from the Mweka Gate on the southern slope and the Marangu Gate on the eastern slope.

We hope our containers are never needed and that Altezza Travel's mountain teams will only visit the park to accompany travelers. However, we are prepared to offer any necessary aid to preserve the beautiful nature of the Kilimanjaro region that we call home.

Published on 21 June 2024 Revised on 21 June 2024
About this article
Anatolii Foksha
Expert Articles: 18
Written byAnatolii Foksha
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Anatolii, a manager at Altezza Travel, has been with our company from the start. Since 2014, he also called Tanzania home. In his role, he takes part in organizing high-profile projects, such as the Wings of Kilimanjaro and Nimsdai Kilimanjaro climbs, among others. Anatolii has climbed Kilimanjaro numerous times and explored various regions of Tanzania. In our blog, he covers the news of our company and other related topics. As a passionate reader and explorer, he occasionally writes articles on Tanzanian history, geography, and culture.

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