Shimla: The early onset of summer and prolonged dry spell have sparked fires in forests in Dharamsala, Shimla, Mandi and Solan districts as a total of 445 fires, affecting an area of 3195 hectares have been reported till date.
The forests around the capital Shimla are burning in the first month of the fire season. The Tara Devi forest, which is located along the Shimla-Kalka National Highway, has been entirely consumed by fire. The fire has spread across the road, creating a cloud of smoke that can be seen from miles away. Forest riches worth crores in Himachal Pradesh is destroyed by fire during the summer season. Many animals die as a result of this. Many portions of the mountain are inaccessible to cars. In such a condition, the woods must bear a great deal of the brunt of the summer fires.
Despite the fact that the fire season runs from April 1 to June 30, numerous fires have already been recorded in the first month. The damage has been estimated at Rs 88 lakh by the Forest Department. Though a majority of the forests where fire has been reported are pine some other forests too have been damaged.
A total of 32 forest fires impacting 173 hectares of land were recorded yesterday, with a damage estimate of Rs 5.50 lakh. Pine woods, which are home to the majority of the fires, make up around 15% of Himachal’s total forest cover. “Because the bark of pine trees is so strong, most of the trees that have been burned renew, but in certain cases the damage is irreversible,” said Anil Sharma, the State Nodal Officer for Forest Fires.
The forest fire situation in Dharamsala is the worse it’s ever been, with 120 flames registered so far. For the last two-three days, a big fire in the Tara Devi forest along the Shimla-Solan route has been roaring. The Rampur division has recorded the second-highest number of fires, with 83 in Mandi and 61 in Shimla.
Despite the fact that the Forest Department is linked to the Forest Fire Notice System, which sends an immediate alert of smoke billowing from a forest via satellite images with the Forest Survey of India (FSI), the situation this year appears to be extremely serious. “The alert received from the FSI is sent to the concerned DFO, Range Officer as well as Forest Guard to ensure that there is prompt action and the fire is contained right at the outset and there is no lapse at any level,” asserted Sharma.
The Woodland Service has identified 150 forest ranges that are particularly vulnerable to fire and is taking steps to prevent fires. A total of 9,000 forest fire volunteers have been enlisted to assist the Forest Department’s employees in reporting and containing forest fires.
The Forest Department has also been raising awareness at the local level, asking elected officials to educate the public and solicit their support during gramme sabha meetings.
As a precaution, steps like as constructing fire lines, controlled burning, and removing road sides of dry, extremely combustible pine needles were implemented.