A dry spell and above-normal temperatures during post-monsoon and winter seasons in Uttarakhand raise concerns of increased forest fires in the coming months. However, the meteorological department officials hope that rain may bring some relief this month .According to the department statistics, the normal rainfall during post-monsoon period (October-December) is 90mm in Uttarakhand. But the state recorded 76% less than the normal rainfall during the last season. The winter season too has reported scanty rainfall. Against the normal rainfall of 180mm during the winters (January and February), the state recorded 66% less rainfall in January. The rainfall deficit has impacted the temperatures, which are either normal or on the higher side. As a result, humidity has decreased on the earth surface raising concerns of forest fires in the upcoming season, which begins from February 15. “The inconsistent weather in Uttarakhand raises an alarm for forest fire season. While natural phenomenon is not in our hands, forest department carried out a giant exercise of dousing the fire and remaining on alert for quick response,” said Dinesh Pandey, a wildlife activist.In 2016, the state forests suffered heavy damages. Forests in 4,434 hectare and plantations in 104 hectare area were destroyed in forest fires. The government engaged MI-17 choppers of the Indian Air Force to douse the fire by sprinkling water. In 2017, the loss was comparatively low, as forests in only 1,245 hectare and plantations in seven hectare area were gutted. This year, the forest department has already started efforts to ensure quick reporting for fire incidents and faster response to douse them. The department is celebrating forest fire week across all 13 districts in the state. As part of the week, the department officials are conducting meetings with villagers and their heads, and sensitising them over the issue. The emphasis is on providing contact details of the local staff and ranger, so that the fires could be immediately reported. “To douse forest fire, we do engage contractual staff. But we need support of locals as well. We are sharing our contacts with locals and seeking their association to deal with the calamity,” said BP Gupta, a nodal officer for forest fires.Meanwhile, the meteorological department officials are hoping for better rainfall in February. “Certainly the high and normal temperature, scanty rainfall, dry spell and low humidity could pose risk. But we are expecting some relief in February,” said Vikram Singh, the director of meteorology centre in Dehradun.