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Forest Fire Rages in SW China
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A forest reserve around Mount Cangshan, a popular scenic spot in southwest China's Yunnan Province, caught fire on Thursday.

The fire started on a mountain pass behind Jiangfeng Temple early Thursday and quickly spread over 133 hectares of forested land, according to Duan Li, Mayor of Dali, in the Bai Autonomous Prefecture of Dali.

More than 3,000 people have been enlisted to help extinguish the blaze as Duan fears the fire may spread faster than expected due to the dry and windy weather conditions.

Local firemen are using every resource available to channel water into the main fire and villagers are using branches, buckets, scoops, and hoes to stamp out the smoldering areas around the perimeter.

Force three to seven winds in the region are hampering the firefighting efforts as the fire continues to spread.

Tourists in the region should not be affected, since the fire is 20 to 30 kilometers from the ancient city of Dali, said Duan, who is directing the fire fighting work.

So far, no casualties have been reported.

With an area of nearly 80,000 hectares, the Cangshan and Erhai National Nature Reserve is one of the most famous scenic spots in the province.

Authorities have now confirmed that the fire was accidentally started by six schoolboys who were playing with lighters. The boys, who should have been in school, fled the scene and none were injured, the spokesman said.

The children are fifth-graders at Longquancun Primary School in Xiaguan town, of the Bai Autonomous Prefecture of Dali, a spokesman with the local public security department told Xinhua.

Another forest fire, believed to be arson after an initial investigation, broke out on Laoqingshan Mountain in the provincial capital of Kunming at around 10:20 AM on Thursday.

That fire spread over 13.3 hectares of forested land and was put out at 2:40 PM.

(Xinhua News Agency March 9, 2007)

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