Lit bidis — a small, hand-rolled Indian cigarette — resulted in four fire incidents that destroyed around 20 hectares of forested area in the Sariska Tiger Reserve last month, forest department officials say.
“Fortunately in the Sariska forests, locals don’t light fires as part of a myth or wrong belief,” said field director RS Shekhawat. “Fire is caused by negligent people who throw burning bidi stubs in the forest while passing through it.”
The incidents were largely reported on hilltops and plateaus used by locals to go from one village to another.
Dry grass, fallen twigs and dead trees during summer provide fuel to small embers to become fast-moving forest fires.
The first incident was reported on the Dadikar Plateau in the Alwar buffer area on April 14, resulting in four-five hectares of forest being scorched before the range officer, his staff and villagers could douse it. No loss of wildlife was reported in the incident.
Shekhawat said generally wild animals move to areas near waterholes during summer and are saved from such fires.
The second incident took place on April 21 in Bana forest (three-four hectares lost), then on April 24 in Bhangarh in the Ajabgarh forest range (five-six hectares lost), and most recently in Balaquila on April 27 (two hectares lost). All fires were controlled within 24 hours.
Shekhawat said 300km of fire lines have been created to prevent future fires. Fire lines are gaps in vegetation or other combustible material that act as barriers to slow or stop the progress of a forest fire.