玉山,灰頭土臉?

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1993 / 2月

文‧鄭元慶 圖‧鄭元慶


雖然災情不能和美國黃石公園的森林火災相比,但元月六日起延燒了六天的一場大火,卻使我國玉山國家公園一百一十五公頃的林地毀於火舌,也是國家公園成立以來發生的最大災難。


「新竹!新竹!這裡是台北壹號聽到請回答!」

「台北壹號!台北壹號!新竹回答!」

「新竹!你們位置現在那裡?」

「台北壹號!我們在林道上方五百公尺,正在開闢防火巷,準備用回燒的方法來阻絕火勢,以保住檜木造林區。」

「新竹!防火巷的雜草枯葉要清除,不要再讓火延燒出這區域,了解嗎?」

「了解!了解!」

這是台灣省林務局保林課課長黃義夫,在火場下方的林務局楠梓仙溪工作站旁空地,以無線電對講機和深入火場滅火同仁的對話。他們已盡全力和火神奮鬥了四個晝夜,晚上還必須在零度左右的低溫下留守現場,以確保火勢不再蔓延。

設在火場上方塔塔加鞍部的救火總指揮所,林務局長何德宏展開地形圖,一面接聽火場傳來的消息,一面用對講機下達指示,臉色凝重。

火起莫名,搶救不及

何德宏所立之地——塔塔加鞍部,即是攀登玉山群峰有名的登山口。自古以來,無數的登山客打從這裡出發,攀登玉山主峰,沒想到此處如今竟成救火指揮所。更諷刺的是,塔塔加登山口右側下方約卅公尺處的樹叢,就是這場森林大火的起火點。

獲知火災後,第一批到達現場的搶救人員是阿里山消防隊。隨同前往協助並拎著水管進入滅火的義消高義順回憶,當時火已蔓燒了一大片林木,消防車噴水灌救,曾有效地壓制一部分火勢。但是當水箱的水用光後,回去裝滿再回來,火勢已難控制。

消防車來回奔波進入道下方灌救,想不到火苗延燒開來截斷退路,消防車最後還是冒火硬衝上鞍部。

據阿里山消防隊隊員賴清森表示,經過統計,從去年十月底到元月六日的森林大火期間,阿里山區共發生過廿五次火災,頻率之高,十分罕見。

在這些火災中,消防隊據報後趕到現場時,最常見的情況是——燃燒的枯樹根,空氣中還瀰漫著汽油的味道。「枯樹根不會自燃,現場也不應有汽油味,因此無法排除人為縱火的可能性」,賴清森說。

暫不論玉山火災的起因是自燃、人為縱火或遊客不小心,當火勢無法因在第一時間撲滅時,善後的工作就變得十分困難。

大火自塔塔加登山口附近燒起後,分別往東、西、南三個方向竄燒,加上風勢助燃,地形陡峭,救火不易。

林務局、玉山國家公園管理處和台大實驗林管理處,是負責滅火的三個主要單位,人員合計共有一百五十人,其中多數是林務局員工。

草木焚燒,鳥獸奔竄

玉管處為了維護旅遊設施,及保持阿里山至東埔台十八號公路的暢通,先在麟趾山和鹿林山開闢防火巷,不讓火舌向上蔓延,並於四天後將火完全撲滅。

第五天,觀光課長呂志廣帶領十五位同仁,一早就各自帶著便當飲水,出發救火。在塔塔加鞍部登山口向前望,明顯可見幾股白色濃煙直上雲端。最大的濃煙起自楠梓仙溪谷底,林務局人員正在那裡奮鬥;玉管處人員當天則負責控制玉山前山的那個火場。

沿登山步道入玉山前山的上火場,路旁觸目所及盡是灰燼。殘存的二葉松、華山松和少數枯乾的檜木矗立其間,熱火使得膨脹的岩塊掉在步道上,加上棧道被燒毀,滅火人員得小心翼翼地通過。

在途中,不時可聽見遠處傳來急促的鞭炮聲,還帶著此起彼落的回音。呂志廣解釋,那是富含松脂的二葉松樹幹燃燒後,爆裂開時發出的聲響。

突然間,「嘎!嘎!」的聲音破空而過,原來是一群烏鴉受不了煙燻和火熱,往玉山主峰方向飛去。想必有更多的動物因此被迫遷他處。

前進約三公里處,到達火場,救火隊成員分頭滅火。由於易燃的茅草和地上枯枝葉不多,火勢不算太大。雖然如此,火苗卻甚多,有時候看見火苗已滅,其實裡面還在悶燒,過一會兒又露出火燄,滅火工作只好重來一次。

由於沒有更好的器材,一枝長柄鋤刀和一把樹枝,就成為滅火工具。他們用刀闢防火巷,並以樹枝打熄地上餘火。與火短兵相接後,灰燼四揚,每個人身上、臉孔都是一團黑。

經過一整天的搏鬥,開出的防火巷終於奏效,加上附近碎石坡形成更佳的阻絕,火勢不再蔓延了。

除了玉山前山這個上火場火勢被控制之外,下方的楠梓仙溪火場也傳來捷報。

引火回燒,控制火場

從塔塔加鞍部搭車沿楠梓仙溪林道,約五十分鐘,才到達楠梓仙溪谷底的主火場。從楠溪工作站仰望,只見近處白煙四處亂冒,遮蔽了半個天空。再往上看,正好可看到著名的玉山西峰白木林——它也是經過浴火之後,才造成白木林的景觀。

主火場由嘉義林管副處長呂國彥掌控,他由下往上觀測冒煙的火苗方位後,再由黃義夫課長通知救火隊員撲救的前進方向。

黃義夫表示,此次滅火行動由嘉義林管處負責,全處投入所有人力,並由新竹、南投、東勢等林務單位調派人手,總計有一百卅人參與。攜帶的工具包括電鋸、抽水幫浦和長柄鋤刀等。

但是主火場的範圍實在太廣,在長寬各一公里的區域內,共有七個小火場。人力分散後,所能發揮的力量有限。加上溪谷風向難測,得注意四週狀況,不要被火包圍。

為避免火勢蔓延至谷底珍貴的檜木造林區,他們在火場前端開闢一條寬十公尺長、數百公尺的防火巷,引火先將該處林木回燒。當火勢到達後因已無可燃物,自不會再蔓燒過防火巷,這種基本的方式果然有效,也保住了檜木造林區。

由於靠近溪谷,正好有水源可協助救火,利用抽水幫浦抽水灌救的成效顯著,也控制了火勢。

加強善後,再現綠意

元月八日是農曆十二月十六日,也是俗稱的「尾牙」,當一般人興高采烈在都市裡請客吃飯時,這些救火人員卻在山裡吃便當和火神奮鬥。

幸好在經過六個晝夜之後,森林大火終在十一日被不眠不休的救火人員撲滅。善後工作也要展開:林務局要開始補植林木;玉管處則要整修登山步道及棧道,以確保春節假期遊客的安全。

幸運的是,燒掉的造林地多屬二葉松、華山松等專製紙漿的木材,損失不算太大。如是經濟效益高的檜木林,損失將難以估計。

以往,站在攀登玉山群峰登山口的塔塔加鞍部,入眼盡是翠綠的林木。

如今,火神已使景觀大變,留下的是一片深黯的灰燼。

〔圖片說明〕

P.119

登玉山的棧道遭毀損,須先以枕木代替,以利救火隊員通行。

P.120

在視野遼闊的林務局楠溪工作站旁空地,現場指揮人員正以無線電對講機下達指示。

P.121

林務局人員開出一條防火巷後引火回燒,以阻絕火勢,保護高價值的檜木造林地。

P.122

森林有涵養水源、保持水土的功能,登山遊客必須小心火燭以免釀成類似的火災。

P.122

被燒毀的林木,須立刻補植,才能恢復舊觀。

相關文章

近期文章

EN

Yushan's Ashen Look

Cheng Yuan-ching /photos courtesy of Cheng Yuan-ching /tr. by Peter Eberly

Although not as bad as the forest fire that devastated Yellowstone National Park recently, the six-day fire that broke out on January 6th and burned 115 hectares of forest land at Yushan National Park was the largest fire to strike the park in its history.


"Hsinchu! Hsinchu! This is Taipei No. 1. Come in please!"

"Taipei No. 1! Taipei No. 1! This is Hsinchu."

"Hsinchu! What's your current location?"

"Taipei No. 1! We're 500 meters above the forest road, opening a firebreak to cut off the fire and protect the Chinese juniper afforestation area."

"Hsinchu! Be sure to clear away the leaves and underbrush and keep the fire from spreading into the area. Do you read me?"

"Roger! Roger!"

This an exchange over the walkie-talkie between Huang I-fu, chief of the Forest Protection Section in the Taiwan Provincial Forestry Bureau, who is directing work from a field near the administration's Nan Creek work station, and a team of firefighters working on the front line. They've fought the blaze for four straight days now, remaining on the scene at night, in subzero temperatures, trying to keep the fire from spreading further.

At fire command headquarters at Tatachia Pass, above the fire, the director of the Forestry Administration, Ho Teh-hung, spreads open a topographical map, listens to reports from the scene of the fire and issues instructions over a walkie-talkie, his expression one of grave concentration.

Cause unknown:

Tatachia Pass is a well-known starting point for mountain climbing in the area. Among the countless climbers that have set out from there to climb the main peak of Yushan, who would have thought it would one day become the command center for fighting a forest fire? Even more ironically, the fire started in a clump of trees about 30 meters to the right and below the station.

After notification, the first group of firefighters to arrive at the scene was the Alishan fire brigade. Kao I-shun, a volunteer who went along to help and carried in hoses, says that the fire had already spread to a large area at the time. They managed to put down part of it with spray from their fire trucks, but after they ran out of water and returned from refilling the tanks, the fire was out of control.

The fire trucks rushed back and forth below the forest road, until the flames unexpectedly cut off their retreat. They finally fought their way up to the pass.

According to brigade member Lai Ching-sen, there were a total of 25 fires in the Alishan area from late October to January 6, an unusually large number even for the season.

In many of these fires, what the fire brigade found after rushing to the scene was burned tree roots and the smell of gasoline in the air. "Tree stumps don't catch fire on their own, and there shouldn't be any gasoline smell," Lai says. "The possibility of someone setting the fires deliberately can't be ruled out."

No matter what the cause of the Yushan fire, when it failed to be extinguished right away, stopping it later became much more difficult.

After it began near Tatachia Pass, it spread south, east and west, aided by the wind and the steep terrain, which increased the difficulties.

The Provincial Forestry Bureau, Yushan National Park Headquarters and National Taiwan University's experimental forest management office were the main agencies responsible for fighting fire. A total of 150 personnel were involved, most of them belonging to the Forestry Administration.

Creatures in flight:

With the aim of protecting tourist facilities and keeping open Highway 18 from Alishan to Tungpu, park headquarters opened firebreaks in Linchihshan and Lulinshan to keep the fire from spreading up the mountain. In four days that portion of the fire had been completely extinguished.

Early on the fifth day, the head of the park's tourism office, Lu Chih-kuang, set out with 15 workers, carrying lunch boxes and water bottles. At Tatachia Pass, they looked ahead and saw several billows of white smoke rising in the sky. The largest came from Nan Creek, where a team from the Forestry Bureau was battling the blaze. Park headquarters took over responsibility for controlling the fire in the forward mountain area.

Along the path, the forest had been burnt to ashes. A few pines and withered Chinese junipers were still standing. The hot flames had caused rocks to split and fall on the trail and had burned up the wooden footbridges, so the firefighters had to pick their way carefully.

As they went, they constantly heard the reverberation of what sounded like distant firecrackers. Lu explained that when resinous conifers burn, they crack open with an exploding sound.

Suddenly, a "caw caw" sound rent the air--a flock of crows that couldn't stand the smoke and flames were flying toward the main peak. Many more animals must also have been driven off.

After walking about three kilometers, they reached the scene of the fire and split up to fight it. There wasn't a lot of leaves and underbrush around, and the fire wasn't very big. Even so, there were a lot of flames. Sometimes they would put one flame down only to have it glow inside the embers and flare up later, forcing them to put it down all over again.

In lieu of anything better, a long-handled pruning knife and a branch became their main firefighting tools. They used the knives to cut out a firebreak and the branches to beat down flames on the ground. After hand-to-hand combat with the fire, ashes were everywhere and their bodies and faces were black with soot.

By the end of the day, the firebreak they had struggled to open proved effective. Nearby rocks and talus formed a good screen, and the spread of the fire had been stopped.

With the fire there under control, success was also reported in the Nan Creek area.

Fighting fire with fire:

The main scene of the fire in the Nan Creek area was about 50 minutes up the path from Tatachia Pass.

At the Nan Creek work station, white smoke was everywhere, covering half the sky. Looking higher, you could glimpse the famous Whitewood Forest on Yushan's west peak--it had become a white forest only after being seared itself by fire.

Operations here were directed by Lu Kuo-yen, second in charge of the Chiayi forest management office. After determining the direction the flames are rising, he notified Huang I-fu, who then told the team which way to advance.

Huang says that his office, which was responsible for this area of the battle, threw all its manpower into the effort. They were joined by personnel sent by forestry agencies at Hsinchu, Puli and Tungshih, for a total of 130. The tools they brought included power saws, pumps and long-handled pruning knives.

But the scope of the fire was really large, stretching one square kilometer, with nine separate fires raging inside. After they had split up, the firefighters could exert only limited effectiveness. In addition, wind direction in the valley was unpredictable, and the teams had to be careful not to become cut off by the fire and surrounded.

To prevent the fire from spreading to the precious Chinese juniper afforestation area, they cut open a firebreak 10 meters wide and several hundred meters long to lead the fire back on itself. When the fire reached the break, it ran out of fuel and halted. The method worked and saved the Chinese junipers.

Since they were near the creek, water was available to help them. They put their pumps to work and finally brought the fire under control.

The aftermath:

On January 8--the 16th day of the twelfth lunar month, or wei-ya, when most us in the city were out celebrating the end of the lunar year at company dinners--the firefighters were up in the mountains with spartan boxed dinners fighting the flames.

On January 11th, after six days and nights of indefatigable effort, they finally extinguished the fire and restoration work could begin. The Forestry Bureau will handle reforesting, while park headquarters will be in charge of repairing mountain trails to ensure the safety of springtime visitors.

Fortunately, most of the afforestation areas that burned contained pulp trees, whose economic value is not very high. If the fire had reached the Chinese junipers, the loss would have been incalculable.

The view from Tatachia Pass used to be a sea of green. The fire has changed all that. What's left is ashes and soot.

[Picture Caption]

p.119

Many of the wooden footbridges going up Yushan were destroyed. Firefighters had to lay down beams to get by.

p.120

A firefighter on the scene near the Forestry Administration's Nan Creek work station, which affords a broad field of vision, issues instructions via walkie-talkie.

p.121

Forestry Administration personnel cut open a firebreak and then burn back the underbrush to prevent the fire from spreading to the valuable Chinese juniper afforestation area.

p.122

Forests store water and prevent erosion. Hikers and climbers must be careful not to cause a similar fire.

p.122

The area must be replanted at once to return it to its original condition.

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