IAF helicopters help bring Kasauli forest fire under control
Firefighters from Solan and Parwanoo in Himachal Pradesh struggle to douse blaze as tourist town gets engulfed in smoke with dry pine needles catching fire and windy conditions accelerating the spread
After hours of struggle, the fire that broke out in the forest near the air force station in Kasauli in Himachal Pradesh’s Solan district on Sunday was brought under control on Monday.
“It was tough. The relentless efforts of the air force personnel and firefighters finally yielded result and the blaze is has been brought under control,” Kasauli sub divisional magistrate Sanjeev Dhiman said. “There are flames visible near the clubhouse, but we are hopeful that we will be able to put out the fire by afternoon,” Dhiman said.
Since there is no fire station in Kasauli, the services of fire tenders were requisitioned from Solan and Parwanoo, an industrial town, on the Himachal-Haryana border around 9.30am. It took nearly an hour and a half from both stations for the fire brigades to reach Kasauli, which houses nearly 400 hotels.
According to official sources, the fire started from the hilltop near the air force station at 6.30am on Sunday. There was no way for fire tenders to reach the site, so the air force pressed its choppers into service to douse the flames that threatened to spread to a residential area.
Four people, including three firefighters, were wounded in the operation that lasted the entire day. A local contractor, Rishu Aggarwal, was among those injured.
The three injured firemen were rushed to Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, with 10% to 30% burns. They were identified as fire brigade driver Jagdish Sharma, fireman Mohinder Sharma and a home guard personnel Satish Kumar.
The fire, which spread faster due to the high-speed wind, was brought under control by evening, but it again spread this morning at 4.30am.
Kasauli was engulfed in a plume of thick smoke billowing from the forest throughout the day as dry pine needles caught fire.
Panchkula deputy commissioner Mahavir Kaushik said that he got a call from Chandimandir cantonment, stating that there is a fire around air force station, Kasauli. The defence authorities requested permission for getting water from Kaushalya Dam and deployment of police. “A few sorties took place on Sunday till sunset and again on Monday morning,” Kaushik said.
Panchkula deputy commissioner of police (DCP) Mohit Handa said police had been deployed at Kaushalya Dam, so that the air force could take the water if required. Amravati Enclave police post in-charge ASI Narender Singh said that police were deployed to ensure nobody goes near the area.