Kerala

Fire officials on their toes

Season of wildfire seems to have arrived much earlier this year

As the extremely hot, dry season sets in, officials under the Kottayam forest division have been on their toes battling the blazes at different locations over the past one week.

According to officials, the region’s most destructive wildfires often occur during the March-May period with its vegetation desiccating into perfect tinder.

Dry spell

The season of wildfire, however, seems to have arrived much earlier this year with the green bushes at several locations turning bone dry, coupled with high temperature and strong winds.

The only thing missing is a spark, which could originate from anything — even from a burning cigarette.

“The climatic conditions have fuelled fires in at least seven locations including Vandanpathal, Murinjapuzha and Placherry under the Erumely range. These blazes may have caused a loss of bush vegetation in over 20 acres of land while no animal casualties have been reported,” said an official.

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses said that fire was racing through the hill tops at Kandankayam, near Mundakkayam, on Tuesday morning.

Taking serious note of the situation the department has deployed fire gangs at critical locations, which have been identified by assessing the previous history of wildfires.

Fire gangs

Each of these fire gangs, now camping inside the forests, comprise a couple of forest officials and adequate number of fire watchers.

These fire gangs plan their moves based on the directions from the Forest Division Office, which is being alerted on fire occurrences by the Forest Survey of India through satellite mapping.

“As of now, the blazes have been limited to locations under the Erumely range and they have been brought under control in a time-bound manner. Accordingly, we have hired the service of as many as 40 fire watchers for the region. At the same time, no such cases have been reported from the Nagarmpara, Ayyappankovil and Kumili forests,” said Y. Vijayan, Divisional Forest Officer, Kottayam.

Clearing fire line

Meanwhile, the authorities have expedited the works to clear the fire line along plantations and forests, besides launching awareness programmes along forest fringes.

The department also seeks to coordinate with the Fire and Rescue Services in bringing the conflagrations under control.

However, the absence of a fire responder machine and limited staff strength are posing serious challenges in materialising the plan.

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Printable version | Apr 6, 2020 6:22:35 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/fire-officials-on-their-toes/article30854289.ece

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