Helicopters, firefighters battle forest fires in Japan

TOKYO (AP) — A forest fire broke out in a rural area north of Tokyo yesterday, near another blaze burning for a fourth day.

One man suffered burns and was hospitalised, and firefighters have been deployed, said official Hitomi Hirokami at Kiryu in Gunma prefecture, about 100 kilometres northwest of Tokyo.

News footage showed smoke billowing upward from the hills.

Another fire has been raging in nearby Ashikaga in Tochigi prefecture, where 207 households have been asked to evacuate, said spokesman Minoru Takayama.

Firefighters were working on the ground, while military helicopters were dousing the area. No one has been injured.

The two fires are not directly related, but the area has not had much rain lately, causing flames to spread, officials said.

An evacuation order for Ashikaga was first issued on Tuesday for about 50 households, underlining how the stricken area was growing.

The cause of the fire was unclear, but there’s a rest stop for hikers in an area where it’s believed to have started.

Three evacuation centres were set up with social distancing measures and disinfectants and everyone is wearing masks, Takayama said.

Residents watch as a helicopter dumps water on a wildfire in Ashikaga, Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo. PHOTO: AP