Rain Brings Forest Fires In Himachal Pradesh Under Control

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Rain Brings Forest Fires In Himachal Pradesh Under Control

"It has rained at places including Shimla, Solan and Kasauli. Fires are completely out," Himachal Pradesh's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, SP Vasudeva said. (PTI Photo)


Kasauli:  The summer fires in Himachal Pradesh's forests have been brought under control with rains in the lower hills dousing ground fires even as self-help groups comprising villagers have been formed in blaze-prone districts and 700 fire watchers deployed in the pine belt.

Himachal Pradesh's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, SP Vasudeva said today the fires have been doused and there is no need for any panic.

"These were ground fires and were limited to some parts, mostly low-hills. The fires are under control now and there is no need for any panic," he said.

Mr Vasudeva said that it had rained yesterday including in the mid and lower hills, which had also helped douse the ground fires.

"It has rained at places including Shimla, Solan and Kasauli. Fires are completely out," Mr Vasudeva told news agency PTI.

He said it would not be correct to compare the situation in HP with Uttarakhand.

"The situation in our state is nowhere close to Uttarakhand," he said, adding "most the fires in Himachal have been ground fires".

Asked about the loss to forest wealth, he said, "Our loss is not that high, it is estimated at around Rs 20 lakh to Rs 30 lakh. Moreover, there is no damage to life or property."

He said the prolonged dry spell and sudden rise in mercury are the reasons for these forest fires, which are an annual phenomenon.

"The ground fires this time occurred in places like Solan, Nahan, Bilaspur, Hamirpur and Una," he said.

1250 square km area is under pine forest cover and ground fires occurred in an area of 5000 hectares or 5 sq km.

A majority of the fires were reported from pine forests. During summers, these trees shed pine needles that are highly inflammable, he said.

Mr Vasudeva said self-help groups mainly comprising villagers have been formed in the fire-prone districts.

"Our staff is also on the job. We have deployed 700 fire watchers in the pine belt. They keep a watch with the help of local people," he said.

The state forest department has adopted modern "satellite monitoring" method to remain alert about the possibility of forest fires.

"Under the satellite monitoring, we have an instrument fixed at various places which keeps a record of moisture content and temperature. The instrument records variations in moisture and temperature in forests. Our forest guards get a SMS and are alerted if temperature gets high and moisture content falls, indicating that the particular forest area is prone to catch a fire," he further stated.

The senior official also said the locals are also involved by the forest department to collect pine needles, which are highly combustible.

Some locals also regularly collect pine needles, which are purchased by some units for use in their factories.

Notably, some of the ground fires during the past few days have also occurred in areas through which railway lines like the 113-year-old Shimla-Kalka toy train corridor, pass.

However, Mr Vadudeva said there was no need for any alarm, "as these ground fires cannot cause any damage to the train or tracks."
 


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