Kochi

Rain, early intervention curb forest fires

Intermittent summer showers and early intervention have saved precious forest tracks from wildfire this fire season.

The State has recorded the lowest number of fire incidents and area lost to blaze this year when compared to previous years.

Since January, only 161 fire incidents have been reported. The loss of forest area in these incidents has been estimated at 408 hectares. Four-year data available with the Forest Department indicate that fire inflicted the maximum loss in 2019 when 1,767.05 hectares was charred in 571 incidents between January and April.

Last year, the countrywide lockdown imposed following the COVID-19 pandemic came as a blessing for forest managers as human intervention in forest areas was reduced significantly. It was estimated that 711.02 hectares of forest was lost in 377 incidents last year.

In 2019, as much as 1,278 hectares was charred in 330 incidents during the four-month-long period.

Control measures

Grasslands that quickly dry up in summer and organic materials that gather on the floor of deciduous forests quickly catches fire. The deployment of fire watchers, reduction of fuel load and early burning are some of the fire-control measures that are conventionally engaged by the Forest Department, said Rajesh Raveendran, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, who is coordinating the drive.

The month of February, revealed the fire data, is the blaze-prone month in a fire season that begins by December. It is also the period when the maximum number of festivals in temples located on hilltops takes place and there would be increased human interactions on the forest fringes, which could possibly trigger wildfire, he said.

The summer showers that the State receives during the March-April period cool the atmosphere and reduces the chances of fire. Termites feed on the vegetation which gets soaked in the summer showers, thus reducing the fire risk, he explained.

Block-based system

This time, the Forest Department implemented a block-based decentralised fire management system after identifying highly fire-prone areas.

Plans are afoot to draw up action plans for all the blocks and forest stations of the State for the 2022 season by April this year.

The plans for the forest circle will be in place by July. The registration of all staff under the Forest Fire Alert system of the Forest Survey of India will also be completed, he said.

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Printable version | May 11, 2021 6:39:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/rain-early-intervention-curb-forest-fires/article34315250.ece

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