Gili Lawa fire in Komodo not from cigarette butt after all: Police

Footage has gone viral of a fire that swept through 10 hectares of Komodo National Park on August 2, 2018. Still via Denpasar Viral.

A fire that swept through 10 hectares of Indonesia’s Komodo National Park in August started naturally, according to police.

It was initially alleged by the national park director that a cigarette butt not extinguished properly was the cause of the destructive fire that erupted on Aug. 1, leaving the burn zone in Gili Lawa virtually barren. It reportedly took one day to extinguish the fire.

But Denpasar Police’s Forensic Laboratory Center (Labfor) in Denpasar now says an absence of hydrocarbon material residue at the fire location suggests it wasn’t a careless human, but instead it was nature taking its course that prompted the blaze.

“According to information from the West Manggarai Police investigator, they just got the Labfor results yesterday, where no hydrocarbons on the burnt island,” Police spokesman Brig. Gen. Dedi Prasetyo told Detik on Friday.

“It’s believed that the cause of the fire is due to an ‘open flame’, such as from the friction of objects that are flammable, on open land,” he stated.

“So (the allegation) that the fire was (man-made), has been eradicated,” Prasetyo explained.

It’s been a long dry season in Gili Lawa, which has made for the grasslands on the island to dry up—allowing for friction from tree branches to cause sparks, he said.

Gili Lawa before the fire. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Gili Lawa before the fire. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A number of witnesses were previously questioned in a police investigation of the fire.

The land, not residential, will recovery naturally during the rainy season, as grass slowly grows back, according tot he manager of the national park.

The fire did not disturb the natural habitat of the Komodo dragon, the giant monitor lizard that dwells in the national park.

However, while the komodo dragons weren’t impacted, the fire is a hit for local tour operators who bring in guests to enjoy the picturesque savanna for sunsets, trekking, and of course, Instagram photos, national park head, Budi Kurniawan, said at the time of the fire.

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