SALEM: Forest department officials have started various initiatives to control forest fires in Shevaroys Hills and Yercaud.
With the mercury soaring beyond 37 degree Celsius, fires were reported in many parts of the Shevaroys hills. The recent fires reported in the upper portion of Yercaud damaged large tracts of forest lands. The fire occurred near the 19th hairpin bend remained uncontrolled for a few days. The thick clouds of smoke billowed from the fires caused immense inconvenience to road users.
To prevent further occurrence of fires in areas close to human activity, the forest personnel have started removing the dry bushes and leaves on both the sides of Yercaud Ghat road. Besides forest personnel, members of the village forest councils and personnel from the zoological park have also been roped in for the work. Tourists are frisked at the check post in the Yercaud foothills and personnel are collecting cigarette lighters, matchboxes and other combustible materials. "A few irresponsible persons consume liquor and smoke on the Ghat road. They throw the burning cigarette buds and matchsticks. This is a major reason for the fire," forest officials said.
The personnel at the check post are advising the tourists not to throw burning cigarette buds and matchsticks. "Severe action will be initiated against those violating this," the officials said.
The department has also intensified the fire monitoring process. Watch towers have been erected at various places and firewatchers in the tribal villages are put on high alert. The fire service personnel are also kept on alert.
But nature lovers criticised the department for the delay in the removal of dry leaves on the roadsides. If they had removed the dry bushes in the beginning of January, they could have prevented a few fires, they said.