Forest Dept. readying to tackle any possible summer fires

Additional fire watchers have been deployed across the M.M. Hills-BRT Tiger Reserve-Bandipur-Nagarahole landscape

With the day-time temperatures soaring high, the Forest Department is bracing for a possible outbreak of summer fires across the M.M. Hills-BRT Tiger Reseve-Bandipur-Nagarahole landscape and has deployed additional manpower to cope with any exigencies.

A regular feature in the landscape which has mostly dry deciduous and scrub forests that are bone-dry by the second week of February, the authorities have also completed the mandatory burning of fire lines that tend to act as ‘fire-breaks’ in case of any conflagration.

At Bandipur Tiger Reserve that has a history of major fires in summer, the authorities have completed the controlled burning of fire lines extending to almost 2,400 km. S.R. Natesh, Director, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, said that there were rains in the first week of January that helped build up moisture and delayed vegetation turning dry to certain extent. In such places, the controlled burning was taking place now, he added.

In addition, the authorities have recruited 435 fire watchers on a temporary basis as their first line of defence in the event of an outbreak. They are mostly recruited from the villages surrounding the reserve and have stakes in preventing the outbreak of fires.

Besides this, the authorities have sought the assistance of the Indian Air Force who have promised to be on standby in the event of any outbreak that threatens to go out of control. For instance, vast swathe of forests in Himmavad Gospalswamy Betta range were reduced to cinders and a fire was spreading out of control when the IAF pressed in two choppers that air dropped water using bambi buckets to douse the fire in February 2019.

With regard to deployment of fire vehicles, they will be in place after the completion of the Aero Show in Bengaluru at Yelahanka from February 3 to 5, according to Mr. Natesh.

At M.M. Hills Wildlife Sanctuary which is seared by extreme heat, about 500 km of fire lines have already been cleared through controlled burning to help check the spread of fire. Besides, 110 local villagers drawn from various tribes, have been recruited on a temporary basis and deployed across different divisions to act as fire watchers.

This is part of the regular fire prevention protocol that is followed by the department across the State, said V. Yedukondalu, Deputy Conservator of Forests, M.M. Hills Wildlife Sanctuary.

He said the deployment of 110 temporary fire watchers is in addition to 140 guards deployed in 35 anti-poaching camps set up across the 906 sq km. Though inadequate, Mr. Yedukondalu said the forest watchers have been deployed in high risk areas that are prone to fires like Ramapura and Hoogyam. The authorities have also sought the assistance of the Fire Department who have positioned rapid response vehicles at Kollegal and Cowdahalli so as to reach the fire-affected areas. Besides, the authorities have requisitioned 40 fire blowers that will add in combating any conflagration.

Similar arrangements are also in place at Nagarahole and BRT all of which have a history of forest fires during summer.

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