Although forest fires in summer are an annual phenomenon reducing hectares of grasslands and forest cover to ashes, no major outbreak of forest fire has been reported from the forest patches in and around the city this season. However, the forest department has alerted those residing near forests and tourists and asked them not to throw half-burnt cigarette butts while roaming in the forest.
The outbreak of fires is much more in forest patches in other districts like Gadchiroli and Chandrapur.
Summer season is the peak time for forest fires. Particularly, the dried grass and wind flow add to chances of fires spreading quickly. In Pune circle, 13 forest fire cases damaging 36 hectares of forest land in Pune, Junnar and Solapur divisions and Bhor sub-division were registered from October 2008 to January 2009. However, there were no reports of loss of wildlife or human life, says a report on forest fires released by the chief conservator of forest.
As a precautionary measure, the forest department has completed demarcating the fire lines in the forest area. Most of the time forest fires do not break out naturally, but the local people purposely create the fires. Usually it is out of revenge, as the forest personnel prohibit them from hunting or grazing their cattle in the forest area. Sometimes, local people believe that burning the grass enhances excessive growth of new grass next season. Tourists are also responsible for forest fires because they irresponsibly throw cigarette butts in the forest, said assistant conservator of forest B N Kadam.
The forest department seeks cooperation from local people, whenever the forest fire breaks out. Usually the fire brigade receives the calls from people regarding forest fires and convey the information to us. With their help, the forest personnel douse the fires using green twigs. But in summer, it is difficult to get the twigs. Hence wetted jute-sacks are used, range forest officer of Bhamburda, Shrimant Bhalerao said.
The forest department has deputed firewatchers. But the fire-fighting equipment, including vehicles, is inadequate, said a forest personnel.