Devastating fire engulfs huge forest area in Udhampur, Rajouri

Avtar Bhat

JAMMU, May 29: With continuance of increasing heat wave in Jammu region, devastating fire engulfed the forest areas in various parts of region as well as in Kashmir valley damaging huge forest resources and wildlife.
A huge loss of forest resources and wildlife has taken place in devastating forest fire during last one fortnight in different parts of J&K after the mercury soared in the UT of J&K, sources said.

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They said there are daily reports of forest fire for last fortnight in one or other part of J&K UT causing a huge damage due to sweltering heat wave. The increasing forest fire incidents have been a cause of concern for the people especially those living near forest areas.
As per reports, a massive uncontrolled forest fire swept through large areas of Udhampur district causing extensive damage to forest resources, including wildlife, officials said today.
Panic gripped this entire belt as people said the efforts of the Forest Department and local people to control the blaze have been unsuccessful so far and residents have sought the deployment of the Indian Air Force (IAF) choppers to douse the blaze and control the fire from spreading further.

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The fire, which began in the Darsoo forest area between Udhampur and Jammu districts has spread across five to six sq km, sources said.
“We urge the administration to deploy helicopters from the IAF to douse the fire. The current efforts by the Forest Department and locals have been insufficient and the fire is spreading to new areas rapidly,” local resident Harvinder Singh said.
“It has caused enormous losses and immediate aerial support is crucial,” he said.
The cause of the fire remains undetermined, though some locals suspect it may have been deliberately set by miscreants.
The forest areas in Kathua and Rajouri districts of Jammu and Kashmir were engulfed by fire on Tuesday causing significant damage to forest wealth. The Forest Department officials and local residents took several hours to bring the fire under control.
According to the Fire Service Department, there are currently 10 to 13 fire incidents occurring daily in the region, attributed to the rising temperatures.
“Fire broke out in Sawni Sassalkote forest area in Rajouri district on Tuesday and spread to nearby areas due to strong winds,” said the sources.
They said fire fighting operations launched by the Forest Department and Forest Protection Force are in progress and are still ongoing to control the blaze.
Meanwhile, the locals also joined the Forest Department officials in the operation to extinguish the flames, they added.
“Due to the rising temperature, around 12 to 15 fire incidents are being reported daily from the forest belts in parts of the region,” they added.
Locals said in Darsoo area of Udhampur district near about two and a half kilometre to three kilometer forest area has been engulfed by the devastating fire and it is spreading further. They said some days back devastating fire engulfed Gangra hills in Panchari area of the district causing huge damage to forest resources.
Reports said forest fire incidents have also taken place in Bani area-Kandi belt of Kathua district but they were brought under control by the local people.
Sources said eight fire incidents have been reported in Rajouri Forest division alone. The Forest Department officials admitted that this Summer the forest fire incidents are on increase in comparison to last year.
They attributed devastating fire to peak Summer season and accumulation of flammable pine needles in the jungle. To check the rapid spread of forest fire, the Forest Department has set up fire control rooms at various places to ensure quick response.
Reports said a massive forest fire has broken out in Nagras area of Qazigund in South Kashmir’s Anantnag district on Saturday. Admitting this, the officials said the devastating fire engulfed the vast forest area in Qazigund causing a huge loss.
Reports said in Butni area of Rajouri, fire engulfed seven to eight acres causing severe damage to trees and wildlife. To control the blaze Forest Protection Force launched an extensive fire fighting operation that continued throughout the night.
Reports said that devastating forest fire has also made a huge damage in forest area of Hardoniyan, Bagan, Rayor Jatal in Nud area of Samba district bordering Udhampur.
Forest fire has been raging in several forest areas of Reasi district. The fire was broke out in the forest area of mountain adjacent to Trikuta Parvat mountains. Whereas another forest fire was reported from Batora Chakli forest area in Thakrakote area of Reasi district. Administration pushed the concerned team for dousing the fire including forest staff and shrine board staff.
An official spokesman said that drone has been put into service to control fire in inaccessible areas.
However, when contacted the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests, K Ramesh Kumar attributed the increasing forest fires to unprecedented soaring temperature and putting on fire the waste of harvested agriculture products by farmers near forest area which often causes forest fire. He said in some cases the notorious elements deliberately put forests in fire to defame the Forest staff and Department has recommended police action in such cases.
He said the Department is maintaining constant vigil and the DFOs in various areas are on patrolling duty monitoring fire fighting operations since last night.
He said in various places people extend full cooperation to the Department in fire fighting operations.
Sarvesh Langer, Assistant Director Fire and Emergency Services Udhampur said fire stations are well equipped with fire tenders and Department on war footing bases launch fire fighting operations whenever it comes to know about any forest fire incident. He said in those forest areas where fire tenders can’t reach the officials of both Forest Department and Fire Services manually try to put off the fire.
He said issue becomes much complicated and panic grips the area if some residential houses are located near forest area engulfed by the fire.

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