As Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh struggle to contain massive forest fires, incidents of wildfires were reported from Bathuni and Gambhir areas of Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri district on Sunday.
While the fire has been raging in over 2000 hectares of forest area in Uttarakhand for several days now, it was reported from 12 new places in the forests around Shimla in Himachal Pradesh on Sunday. The raging fires have claimed at least seven lives in Uttarakhand till now.
According to latest satellite imageries, of the 427 forest fires in Uttarakhand, it has been doused in over 70% of the affected areas with over 130 personnel of the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) deployed to tackle the massive blaze.
Over 10,000 personnel of different departments are helping the NDRF to douse the fires in Uttarakhand forests. The Centre has also deployed three MI-17 helicopters of the Indian Air Force along with state police, State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), forest staff, home guards and local volunteers to battle the forest fire.
Union home minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the Uttarakhand forest fire situation on Sunday during his meeting with the state’s chief secretary and concerned officers in his ministry. Singh has instructed officials to closely monitor the situation and provide all assistance in controlling the fire.
The home minister has also spoken with Uttarakhand governor KK Paul on the phone and assured him of providing all necessary assistance to control the fire.
‘Rising temperature behind Shimla forest fire’
Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh has said a rise in temperature is the reason behind the fire in Shimla rural forest division, which has left over 50 hectares of forest land destroyed.
“It is nothing new. Fire break out in forest areas is due to rise in temperature,” Singh told reporters in Rampur on Sunday.
The fires have not only damaged forest wealth but have also hit rural life. Villagers have been battling dense smoke with water supply being hit in some villages too. Forests in Patiyud, Dashala, Anandpur villages, around 20 to 25 kilometre from Shimla town, have been under the grip of forest fire over the last two-three days.
“I think 50-60 hectares of area is affected ... Several incidents of fire from different areas have been reported after a rise in temperature,” Shimla divisional forest officer (DFO) Raman Sharma told ANI.
Principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) SP Vasudeva said the forest department had taken all measures to save the forest wealth from the fire.
“It happens every year but we have been containing the fire as soon as possible. So far over 330 cases have been reported across the state, damaging property worth Rs 25 lakh,” Vasudeva told HT.
According to reports, around 22% covering 8,267 sq km of the total forest area in the state is fire prone. A majority of fire incidents are reported from the pine forests during summers every year when pine trees shed their dry needles, which are highly inflammable.