Unusual dry Spring triggering forest fires

Staff grapples with shortage of safety equipment
Representational Image
Representational ImageFile/ GK

Bandipora: The 'unusual' dry weather in March and April this year and comparatively less snow is being termed as a likely cause for increasing forest fires in north Kashmir.

The north Kashmir's Bandipora has alone witnessed more than six fire incidents wherein the officlas had to fight the raging fires for more than a day.

The officials of the forest department in Bandipora said that the dryness was the main cause of fires spreading at this time of the season. However, they have been able to "save much of the green gold" as it is the "dry grass" and bushes that is seen usually caught up in the fire, they shared.

As per the official figures, the two forest ranges of Bandipora, which include the Khuihama and Ajas forest ranges have reported at least six fire incidents in March alone. Two of these fires had engulfed vast areas wherein three forest protection employees also received injuries and two villages had to be evacuated.

These forest areas include Khayar-Lawaypora, Mulkihama, Ajas wild range, Buthoo, and Panaar.

Though the officials at the Divisional office say six reported forest fires took place, the locals have been reporting incidents every two-three days. Recently, compartments 114, and 142 were engulfed in fire in the Aajas range.

"The grass at this time of the season would normally be damp with the rains on regular intervals. This time it's dry and catches fire easily," Divisional Forest Officer, Shabir Ahmad told the Greater Kashmir.

The officials also believe less snowfall in these reaches during winter is the cause as most of these areas are dry. The soil would also be damp, but that's not the case this season, the officials said.

"The March weather mostly being dry has increased the chances of fire incidents many folds," the DFO said.

The officials said the weather this spring has been unusual and they have been doing some of the activities before the set time while flowering and germination of the seeds has also happened early.

With the increase in forest fire incidents, the officials have now created different control rooms to "immediately" reach the forest areas caught up in the fire.

"The fire in Khayar-Lawaypora in march was huge and took two days to dose off, soon after the incident different fire control rooms were created in Ajas and Kuheima,"Ahamd said.In the incident, two villages falling nearby were evacuated, the rang officlas at the time told Greater Kashmir.Soon after the incident, three forest protection officials sustained burn injuries in Ajas range while trying to put off the flames.

A forest protection official, not wishing to be named said that the department was facing an acute dearth of safety equipment to fight the fire."We have to control the fire by our naked hands as there is a dearth of safety equipment," he shared, adding that "there was no mechanism to utilise water sources if available even in the areas". The department said that the locals were equally helpful full in supporting them to put off the fires in forests.

"Till now six fire incidents have occurred and the teams have been able to control them in time. The thanks go to the locals as well who have been a shoulder to shoulder with the department and officials in helping put off the fires wherever they occurred," the DFO Bandipora said.

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