Kerala

Fire sweeps through high ranges of Kottayam

Extreme heat and spells of dry wind render forest fringes on hillsides vulnerable

After a series of low-intense landslips that rocked the region during the monsoon, the vast swaths of forests, grasslands, and plantations in the high ranges of Kottayam have now been taken over by numerous wind-driven fires, giving local residents and firefighting officials sleepless nights.

According to officials with the Fire and Rescue Services, the fast-moving flames, accompanied by extreme heat and spells of dry wind, have turned the forest fringes on the foothills of the Western Ghats incandescent.

The sharp rise in fire incidents over the last couple of weeks has left the 250-plus Fire and Rescue Services personnel and the 16 fire tenders across the eight fire stations in Kottayam stretched to their limit.

A fire that broke out at Moonnilavu two days ago has so far destroyed crops in over 300 acres.

This is in addition to the embers on the hilltops being reported from Myladumpara, near Pala, and the Vattapara forest area near Erumely, among others.

“The fires have left the forests and plantations reduced to charred stumps in many locations. Despite concerted efforts involving our personnel and the public, the fire has found unexpected ways to persist,” said Shinoy, district fire officer, Kottayam.

Inaccessible areas

According to him, the incidents reported from the desolate grasslands on the hilltops are tough to handle, considering the difficulty in deploying personnel and machines at such locations. With a few more months left for the rainy season, officials now expect the number of distress calls to go up further. The department has now chalked out a plan of action to coordinate its firefighting actions with local bodies by constituting committees at the grassroots level.

Taking a serious note of the situation, the Fire and Rescue Services plans to kick-start an awareness campaign in association with the administration. “The situation has been brought to the notice of the Kottayam District Collector. Directives will be issued though the authority regarding the creation of fire lines and clearing of dry shrubs and leaves from plantations to manage flames,” said A.R. Arun Kumar, divisional fire officer.

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Printable version | Feb 26, 2020 9:08:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/fire-sweeps-through-high-ranges-of-kottayam/article30813941.ece

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