There has been a considerable decrease in the number of forest fires in the State this season.

A.S. Balanathan, Head of Forest Force and Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, Tamil Nadu, told The Hindu that last year, 180 incidents of forest ground fires were reported in the State, affecting 8,744 hectares of forest area. In 2009, the number of incidents was over 180 and the area affected extended over 12,000 hectares.

This year, the authorities have so far received about 120 reports of fire incidents across the State and the destruction of forests in the fire would be quantified only at the end of this month.

Some of the interior areas in the forests in the State received good rain in the last couple of months, as a result of which there was a reduction in the number of fire accidents, he said.

Various factors contributed to the reduction in the number of fire accidents. The key factors, according to Mr. Balanathan, were better patrolling by field staff and the fire prevention measures taken by them. Another important aspect that helped was the awareness creation among people living close to the forest areas.

Forest fires are monitored through satellite, and within six hours of their occurrence, they would be spotted by the Department's Geographical Information System Centre at Panagal buildings in Saidapet.

The District Forest Officer concerned is immediately alerted and the DFO, in turn, will send field staff to put it out. Mr. Balanathan said.

Using the satellite facility, the Centre had already identified fire-prone areas in both the Eastern and Western Ghats. The field staff is alerted well in advance about the fire season which starts from the middle of January and lasts till the end of May. The field staff will start cutting the fire lane in the forests, which will help in controlling the spread of fire.

Theni, Kodaikanal, Dindigul, The Nilgiris, Mudumalai, Top Slip in Pollachi and Coimbatore in the Western Ghats; Sathyamangalam, Tiruppattur and Vellore in Vellore district, Tiruvannamalai and Hosur in the Eastern Ghats were fire-prone areas identified by the Centre, he added.

More In: Tamil Nadu | National