BEIJING, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- China's law enforcement agencies solved nearly 3,000 cases of arson and fire accident in forests as well as 6,000 forest fire cases involving governments last year.
More than 10,000 people were involved in the cases, said Du Yongsheng, director of the forest police bureau under the State Forestry Administration, on Thursday.
Most cases were caused by illegal use of fire within or at the edge of forests, he said.
A forest fire that broke out on Sept. 23 in southwestern Guizhou Province was ignited by a village woman in her 80s burning straw. It was put out the next day after destroying more than 40 hectares of forest.
Du also revealed that last year, the forest police recorded more than 13,000 criminal cases, involving 18,000 suspects and more than 400 million yuan (50 million U.S. dollars).
"Apart from forest fires, destruction of forests and illegal logging and exploitation of forest resources have been rampant, leaving a heavy burden for forest police," said Du.
The forest police cracked more than 400 criminal gangs involved in forestry-related crimes last year.
A total of 455 cases involving wildlife were investigated and the police seized 40,492 wild animals and detained 736 suspects.
The forest police team needed to expand to better protect forest and wildlife and maintain public security in forest areas, Du said.
"China currently employs just 60,000 forest policemen in about 6,700 forest police stations, which is insufficient as the country's forest area is increasing by one percentage point each year," he said.
The forest police are responsible for dealing with criminal cases, ministerial cases and public security violations in the forest regions.
More than 180 forest policemen were injured and 52 died on duty from 2001 to 2005, according to SFA.
Du also warned of the increased risk forest fire and called for more control efforts in autumn and winter.
Most parts of China had entered the autumn-winter season when forest fires were more likely, said Du.
Weather forecasts showed most regions would suffer higher than average temperatures and less rainfall this autumn and winter, increasing risks.
With the autumn harvest season drawing near and the week-long National Day holiday next week, more visitors would come to the forests.
Local forest police and fire control departments must prepare emergency plans and strengthen surveillance to protecting forest resources, said Du.
The public should be aware of forest fire risks and immediately report to the authorities potential dangers or violations, he added.
From 1988 to last year, an average of 7,500 forest fires occurred annually in China, SFA figures showed. Enditem