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Massive forest fire in Rajasthan’s Sariska Tiger Reserve; IAF choppers to douse blaze

By Ruchi Upadhyay 
Updated Date

Jaipur: A massive fire broke out in the forests of Rajasthan’s Sariska Tiger Reserve in Alwar district, a forest official informed on Tuesday. According to reports, the fire which erupted on Monday evening has now spread over 10 sqkm, the size of some 1,800 football fields and the cause of the blaze is yet to be ascertained.

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Forest officials have also said that around 150-200 people, including the forest staff, are engaged in controlling the fire. Two helicopters of the Indian Air Force (IAF) have also been called in to douse the blaze.

The fire threatens the territory of a tigress, codenamed ST-17 for tracking by scientists, which is at the area with her two cubs, officials have said. The big cats may suffocate, experts have said. There are over 20 tigers in the Sariska reserve.

Firefighters are yet to bring the situation under control. The two IAF helicopters have been scooping up water from Rajasthan’s Siliserh Lake and dropping over the forest fire in Sariska, 43 km from the lake.

Three villages near the tiger reserve have been put on alert as the fire didn’t die down for over 24 hours due to windy conditions.

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“The IAF has deployed two Mi-17 V5 helicopters for Bambi bucket ops. The operations are ongoing,” it said, referring to the collapsible bucket suspended from a helicopter performing firefighting operations and used for lifting and dumping water or fire-retardant chemicals.

Watch IAF Bambi Bucket Ops

The IAF in a statement said they sent two Mi-17 V5 helicopters after the Alwar district administration sent an SOS to help control the fire “which had spread over large areas in Sariska.”

“The IAF has deployed two Mi-17 V5 helicopters for Bambi bucket ops. The operations are ongoing,” it said, referring to the collapsible bucket suspended from a helicopter performing firefighting operations and used for lifting and dumping water or fire-retardant chemicals.

The hills and narrow valleys of the Aravalli range dominate the landscape of Sariska, whose forests are dry and deciduous. It is also home to numerous carnivores including leopards, wild dogs, jungle cats, hyenas and jackals.

Every four years, India takes stock of its tiger population. This exercise is of massive scale in terms of area covered and personnel involved.

The country’s tiger conservation body in December last year said 126 of the endangered big cats died in 2021, the highest since it began compiling data a decade ago.

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The previous highest number of deaths per year before the authority began compiling data in 2012 was in 2016, when 121 died.

India is home to 75 per cent of the world’s tiger population.

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