With this massive forest fire in the hills has made a major fires blighting around 1,900 hectares of forests in Uttarakhand, the government on Saturday decided to press two MI-17 helicopters into service as NDRF, SDRF and Army personnel struggled to douse the flames which have claimed six lives till now.
A total of 1890.79 hectares of green cover have been destroyed this fire season which had an early start on 2 February due to a dry winter.
While three NDRF teams and one SDRF company are busy dousing the flames in different parts of the state, two IAF choppers have been sent to Nainital and Pauri districts, among the worst hit, to spray water over the burning jungles, Raj Bhawan officials in Dehradun said.
Enough funds have been made available to all affected districts besides required personnel and equipment to deal with any situation, they said.
“One MI-17 chopper has been stationed at Bhimtal near Nainital right which is being loaded with water collected from the waterbodies in the area and begin spraying water over affected areas from tomorrow,” Chief Secretary Shatrughna Singh said.
Another IAF chopper sent to Pauri will operate in similar fashion, a Raj Bhawan official said.
With forest fires still raging three NDRF teams have been deployed in Almora, Gauchar and Pauri and one team of SDRF in Nainital to extinguish the flames, Principal Conservator of Forest BP Gupta said.
The casualties due to forest fires, which have spread to sparsely populated remote hill areas, have risen to six with another life claimed in Nainital district on Friday evening. The deceased include three women and a child.
Since the beginning of forest fire season in the state in February, 922 incidents have occurred so far in which seven were injured and 1890.79 hectares of green cover being affected, Gupta told PTI.
Worried over forest fires which are still raging in different parts of the state, Governor KK Paul reviewed the rescue efforts underway via videoconferencing with officials in the field and asked them to speed up their efforts.
NDRF companies assisted by expert teams and locals are conducting fire extinguishing and rescue operations in affected areas of Garhwal and Kumaon regions.
IG Sanjay Gunjyal is coordinating with the NDRF, the district magistrates concerned and Principal Conservator of Forest to supervise the rescue operations.
Locals are being encouraged to report a fire incident to the district magistrate concerned as soon as they sight it so that it can be controlled in time.
The governor has doubled the number of personnel deployed to control the fires from 3000 to 6000 and asked all agencies including the SDRF, district administration and the rural population to contribute their bit in the exercise saying the forest department alone cannot accomplish the onerous task, Gupta said.
Forest fires are natural during summer but this time they have occurred on a bigger scale as the fire season which normally begins by 15 February and ends by 15 June, began on 2 February.