While forest fires are normal during dry months, the month of March had witnessed an all-time high of 250 incidents of forest fires, four times higher than last March.

The Forest Department had identified the first six months of the year as ‘Forest Fire Sensitive’ months. Of them, February and March registered maximum number of forest fires.

The State recorded eight such fires in January 2013, followed by 32 in February and 65 instances in March. This year, the number of forest fires reported in January and February were seven and 39 respectively.

It was the March that baffled the officials and environmentalists as the month recorded 250 fires across the State. Unlike in the past when the fires would subside by April, this year the forest fires were still raging, said officials.

An official from Madurai said most of the incidents were man made. In Theni district alone, 10 persons were arrested for setting afire grass patches in the forests last week. Preliminary investigation revealed that those taking their cattle for grazing inside the forest areas were setting the grass on fire so that fresh shoots sprout forth for cattle grazing. The forest fires would surely affect the reptiles, the officer said.

The Geographical Information System cell in the forest headquarters here received satellite images indicating forest fires in the State everyday and information was then passed on to the District Forest Officers concerned for further action.