Fire broke out in several areas of Zabarwan range here on Sunday causing extensive damages to trees and shrubs.
Reports said fire broke out at Harichandan in upper reaches of Harwan and forest behind SKUAST-K engulfing large portion of forests. Panic gripped inhabitants of Shalimar and Harwan as fire started to spread fast. "We urge authorities to expedite fire-fighting in affected forest areas to prevent fire from reaching habitations," said a group of aggrieved residents of Shalimar.
"Our teams are on the spot and with the help of locals are trying to control the fire," said Imtiyaz Lone, wildlife warden Dachigam National Park.
"It seems some nomads or locals might have burnt leaves or wood for warming themselves. As the grass is dry due to prolonged dry spell, it caught fire," Lone said.
Director Disaster Management Aamir Ali said teams from various departments including Forest, Urban forestry and State Disaster Response Force have been sent to affected spot. "Firefighting operation is on. Locals are also helping to douse fire. Hopefully, fire will be controlled soon," he said.
However, when reports last came in on Sunday evening, the fire has spread to adjoining areas in forest and was visible from several areas of the summer capital.
Experts underscore the need to streamline the firefighting mechanism in the fragile zones. "Lack of coordination between the concerned departments can lead to an ecological catastrophe on the forests in case of delay in fire-fighting," said an expert.
The area hosts a large number of wild animals including leopards and bears as the zone lies close to the Dachigam National Park. Over the past many years, many incidents of fire incidents due to dry spell or "negligence" of nomads had taken place in the Zabarwan range.
To mention Kashmir is witnessing dry spell in this peak winter time increasing risk of forest fires. With Kashmir receiving no snowfall this month, experts here termed the trend as worrisome. Experts have blamed climate change as one of the reasons for less snowfall and precipitation in Kashmir.
"We have a devised a mechanism to control forest fires and all concerned agencies are making coordinated efforts to douse the fire," chief Conservator Forests, Kashmir Nisar Ahmad Darzi told Greater Kashmir.