India — Rain in Shimla and other parts of Himachal Pradesh on Thursday doused numerous forest fires raging in the state, Forest Minister J.P. Nadda said.
“Widespread light to moderate rain since this (Thursday) afternoon has quelled almost all major fires in and around the hills of Shimla and other districts too. For the past few days, the abnormal rise in temperatures had led to an increase in forest fires across the state,” Nadda told IANS.
The dry and hot conditions had caused fires in the mid and lower hill areas, particularly the pine forests. An unusually large number of fires have been reported from various districts, except tribal Kinnaur and Lahaul and Spiti districts.
“We have started monitoring forest fire incidents since the onset of summer,” the minister said.
“The next few weeks (till the onset of monsoon) will be crucial as more fires could break out due to the long dry spell and unprecedented hot weather,” he added.
Manmohan Singh, director of the meteorological office here, said: “The mercury plummeted sharply after moderate rain in Shimla Thursday. The maximum temperature was 21 degrees Celsius against Wednesday’s 28.6 degrees.”
Himachal Pradesh has set up 150 rapid response teams to control forest fires.
According to the forest department, 23 percent (8,267 sq km) of the total forest area in the state is fire prone. A majority of the fires are reported from the pine forests that cover over 1,500 sq km, as during summer, the trees shed pine needles that catch fire easily.
According to official records, 66 percent of the Himalayan state is under forest cover.