GANGTOK — A total of 29 reported cases of forest fires in all the four districts of the state during the last two months, coupled with the prolonged dry wintry spell has generated fear among the people that a big forest fire is in the offing. Sikkim has never witnessed such a prolonged dry wintry spell in its history and bright sunny and windy days have put the vast expanse of forest cover in an inflammable condition. Since it is possible that there may be another wildfire, possible a devastating one, the forest department has ensured that all the fire-fighting mechanisms are fully mobilized and in a state of readiness for quick and efficient measures. Mr T.R.Poudyal, secretary, forest department, said to the Statesman: The forest department is not sitting idle and we are ready to fight any forest fire and all the personnel have been mobilized in this regard. Highlighting the measures adopted by the department, Mr Poudyal said that a series of awareness meetings have been regularly organized by the department with the Joint Forest Management Committees of the villages. A sum of ten thousand rupees have been given to each traditional forest fire-prone village to adopt more efficient measures against any fire, Mr Poudyal said. Patrolling vehicles have been provided to range officers and additional fire watchers have been deputed, he added. The wireless communications facilities have also been strengthened, he revealed. Apart from distributing pamphlets regarding the awareness of forest fires, Mr Poudyal said networking has been established with the police and fire-fighting departments. Other innovative measures of firefighting are being contemplated, he disclosed. Regarding the budget for the crisis period, Mr Poudyal informed that there is a provision of funds from the centre and the state has also provided some additional funds. The funds are not a constraint and the present allocation made by the state is satisfactory, he informed. Mr Poudyal opined that it is not the responsibility of the forest department alone to protect the forests. Every citizen of India is duty-bound to protect national properties like forests and in past cases of wildfires, people from all sections of society, including the army, chipped in to counter the forest fires, he said. Forest fires have so far not caused any substantial damage to the flora and fauna of the state, he also added. All those fires had a minor impact and mostly originated on rocky cliffs having some ground grass cover, Mr Poudyal said. The valuable and mainstream forest areas have been left untouched and no loss of wild life due to forest fire has been yet reported, he stated.