A massive fire engulfed a forested area of about four kilometres in Mumbai's Aarey Colony in Goregaon on Monday evening. Firefighters scrambled to contain the flames that threatened tribal residents who live in the area and the plants and wildlife in the city's biggest green lung.
Fire department officials said they have doused blaze. Earlier, the winds coming from the hills were helping it spread to nearby residential areas. There were no reports of human casualties in the blaze so far.
The huge fire was visible from far away, including the Western Express Highway. Many social media users posted pictures and videos. Mumbai's famous Film City occupies part of the Aarey Colony, which is located off the Western Express Highway.
Chief Fire Officer Prabhat Rahangdale said the Disaster Management Control Room was directed to inform all police stations surrounding the forest to prepare to evacuate tribal residents and cattle if the fire went out of control.
The blaze started around 6:30 pm in an open plot near an IT Park along the General Arun Kumar Vaidya Marg in the western suburb, located adjacent to the Colony.
The officer said the fire started spreading towards residential areas such as New Mhada Colony near New Dindoshi Green Hill Society in Goregaon (East) towards night.
"Until 7.30 pm, the blaze remained confined to trees, dry leaves etc. within a distance of 3-4 km from the spot of fire. However, in the night it started moving towards the residential localities," he said.
Aarey Colony, which is spread over 16 square km, includes 12 villages.
Mr Rahangdale said fire vehicles were unable to enter the forested area due to lack of access. "However, we have managed to put two small hose lines into operation," he added. "Fire brigade has also roped in forest staff and volunteers to put out the flames using tree branches," he said.
Mr Rahangdale said the fire appliances were being diverted from the Film City to douse flames.
"A total of 10 firefighting engines, seven JTs (jumbo tankers), three Quick Response Vehicles were pressed into service. Apart from fire personnel, forest officers and Mumbai police personnel also helped in putting out flames," he said.
"Many big fire pockets that are located at far distance (in the forest) are brought under control with the help of fire beaters. In such forest fires, open uphill wind results into rapid spread," he said, adding that four fire appliances and a jumbo tanker will be kept on a standby.
(With inputs from PTI)