Fire broke out at the Tataguni Estate of the late Svetoslav Roerich and Devika Rani, which is situated off the Bangalore-Kanakapura Road, near Thalghattapura on Friday. Several trees, including the bursera or Indian lavender, planted by the Roerichs, were destroyed in about 100 acres of the estate.

The famous estate, now being run by the Roerich and Devika Rani Roerich Estate Board, is famous for its bursera trees whose seeds supply essential oils to the perfume industry.

Tough time

According to the Fire and Emergency Services, a police constable posted at the estate spotted the fire near the entrance and called for help 12.30 p.m.

“It was similar to a forest fire. We had a tough time putting it out,” said Revanasiddappa, the head fireman who supervised the operation.

“We ensured that the fire did not affect the [Roerich] house and the memorial.”

The firemen first put out the blaze at the entrance and then watered the entire radius where the hose could be reached.

They then walked down and used beaters to extinguish the fire, the entire operation taking four hours.

They said they were told the fire was caused by a cigarette stub. Meanwhile, Mujeed Ahmed, Chief Executive Officer, Roerich and Devika Rani Roerich Estate Board, sought to downplay the conflagration saying there was not much damage to the vegetation.

“This is what I was told by the police personnel in the evening. I will visit the estate again on Saturday and get a detailed account of the extent of damage.

It seems more like a forest fire that occurs when the [mercury rises],” he said.

The fire was reported at a time when the Forest Department is investigating unauthorised felling and transportation of trees from the 468-acre estate.

Under the guise of removing dead and fallen trees, the contractor who was assigned the task has been accused of illegally removing mature silver oak and eucalyptus trees.

Since last four days, the Forest Department has been carrying out enumeration of trees to find the exact number of trees that have been illegally cut down.

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