A forest fire broke out around noon on Inwangsan, a mountain in central Seoul that is a popular outdoor destination, prompting the evacuation of dozens of nearby households as firefighters hurried to contain the blaze.
No casualties were reported in the fire, which was about 23 hectares, roughly 20 percent of the mountain’s total area. It was designated a Level 2 in the country’s three-level fire alert system, and authorities deployed at least 500 people and nine helicopters, which dropped water onto the steep, wooded terrain.
Within three hours about 80 percent of the blaze had been extinguished, according to an official at Jongno Fire Station, but preventing its further spread remained crucial in an area that is home to thousands of people, some in high-rise apartments only a short distance from the mountain’s trails. Access to the mountain remained blocked, and households that had been evacuated were still awaiting clearance to return.
South Korea is hilly and forested, drawing locals and visitors year-round to its hiking trails, especially in Seoul, where there are numerous mountains within the city and at its edges. Inwangsan, which contains part of Seoul’s ancient city walls and offers sweeping downtown views, is a favorite. Trails across Seoul’s mountains were packed on Sunday as temperatures climbed to 70 degrees and cherry blossoms that dot the city were near their peak.
Humidity levels on Sunday had plunged to about 12 percent, creating conditions for wildfires, and dipping far below the country’s average humidity levels of between 59 and 75 percent. But the average is misleading, with wet summers and scant precipitation much of the rest of the year. March and April are the driest months, according to the Korea Meteorological Association.
Within the past few weeks, the nation has had several forest fires.
A wildfire at Mount Jiri National Park, about 180 miles south of Seoul, burned more than 900,000 hectares, forced the evacuation of about 80 residents, and killed one firefighter.
And in South Gyeongsang Province, about 135 miles southeast of Seoul, another fire drove about 500 people out of their homes. It took 2,000 firefighters, 30 helicopters and about 27 hours to extinguish, but no casualties were reported.
The cause of the fire on Inwangsan is unknown. Officials will investigate once it has been completely put out.
The post Forest Fire Breaks Out on a Mountain in Central Seoul appeared first on New York Times.