Widespread rain in Himachal douses forest fires

Shimla, May 4 (IANS) Widespread rain in Himachal Pradesh in the past two days has to a large extent helped douse raging forest fires that destroyed flora and fauna across 5,000 hectares, forest officials said on Wednesday.

“It’s now more than 24 hours that various areas in the state have been experiencing intermittent rainfall that helped douse the forest fires,” Principal Chief Conservator of Forests S.P. Vasudeva told IANS.

Unlike in neighbouring Uttarakhand, which is also reeling under severe forest fires, there has been no loss of life in Himachal.

The main reason for the forest fires was the long dry spell and the abnormal increase in temperatures, he said.

“Now with the sufficient rainfall mainly in low and mid hills where most of the forest fire-related cases were reported, there is sufficient increase in moisture in the ground that will prevent future fire incidents,” a beaming Vasudeva said.

He said ground fires occurred over 5,000 hectares or 5 sq. km., particularly affecting pine forests.

Manmohan Singh, director of the meteorological office here, said: “The maximum temperature has plummeted by five to six degrees in the state after moderate rain since Tuesday.”

He said rain and thundershowers are likely to occur over mid and low hills of the state till Thursday.

In 2015-16, a total of 671 fire incidents had destroyed 5,733 hectares of forests.

The worst was in 2012-13 when 1,798 fire incidents were reported and forest wealth on 20,763 hectares was destroyed.

Vasudeva said 700 fire watchers have been deployed in the pine belt.

Forest officials said most forest fires were deliberate acts. That apart, villagers also tend to set grasslands afire to get softer grass after the rains. In many cases, the fire from grasslands spreads to nearby forests.

According to forest department records, 22 percent or 8,267 sq.km of the total forest area in the state is fire-prone.

A majority of the fires were reported from the pine forests since, during summer, the trees shed pine needles that are highly inflammable due to its rich turpentine oil content.

The pine forests are found up to an altitude of 5,500 feet.



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