Bhutan — The Babesa fire, which destroyed an estimated 7,000 acres of blue pine forest and covered Thimphu city with smoke for the past three days was believed to be caused by four teenage boys who were smoking in a thicket opposite the Babesa sewerage tank in Thimphu.
The boys, who have been apprehended by forestry officials confessed that two of their friends were smoking and had not stubbed out the burning cigarette which had caused the fire. One of the boys is still at large.
According to divisional forest officer, Lobzang Dorji, the fire was the largest so far. While losses could amount to millions of Ngultrums, it took more than three days and about 1,500 fire fighters to bring the fire under control, he said.
Fueled by the fierce wind, the fire had spread from Changbangdu ridge to Toptophu ridge above Ramtokto. Although there was not much thicket in the area,crown fires, fire spreading from tree to tree, had destroyed young blue pine trees that have weak resistance to fire, he added.
If convicted the boys will have to pay a penalty ranging from Nu.300 to Nu.1,000 an acre for damages or serve a minimum of five-year sentence, said range officer, Kinley Ngedup. The convicts will also have to pay compensation based on the value of timber destroyed.
Despite repeated awareness on wild fire prevention, forestry officials believe that Thimphu was experiencing rising fire incidents every winter. Forestry officials attribute the causes to the increasing population in the capital.
Last year alone, forestry officials controlled three fire incidents which had been started from the motor road in and around Thimphu. Most fire cases have been found to be caused by minors, said Kinley Ngedup.
Although the fire was brought under control on Thursday, forest officials are still mopping the burnt areas and have employed about 50 officials to monitor the area. Falling stones and trees in the rugged terrain made fire fighting difficult on the third day. We were able to control the fire with the support from the local people and the armed force, Lobzang Dorji said.
We would like to extend our gratitude to all the people who helped us battle the fire. A Thimphu businesswoman was seen transporting loads of refreshment and construction workers to the fire site.
Meanwhile, another forest fire is reported to have broken out in Wang Sisina between Chuzom and Khasadrapchu in Thimphu at around two in theafternoon, yesterday.