Kohima: Four persons, including a minor were charred to death in a forest fire at Noklak in Tuensang district of Nagaland, official sources said today.
Two women and a 10-year-old boy, who went for firewood collection, were engulfed by the spreading jungle fire near a mission centre in Noklak town yesterday.
The fire started by the villagers to clear jungle for jhum cultivation spread towards the human populated areas due to dry spell accompanied by wind, the sources said.
A student of a theological college, reportedly rushed along with a friend to the area on hearing that the inferno raging towards the college campus but was engulfed in the blaze and subsequently succumbed at the spot.
District administration officials said they were not informed about the jungle clearing operation by the villagers although the normal practice was to intimate the administration before carrying out the slash and burning for cultivation during this dry spell.
Although no damage of property or houses was reported, the blaze engulfed a large area beyond the demarcated cultivable land and wild fire was finally brought under control around 5.30pm yesterday by Assam Rifles assisted by the district administration and the public, the sources added.
Since there is no alternative to jhum cultivation in Nagaland, both district administrations and village councils time and again instruct the villagers to carry out traditional slash and burning operation with strict supervisions so that the fire cannot spread to places other than the clearing areas.
Meanwhile, state directorate of rural development has reiterated that all grants to village development boards (VDB), equivalent to panchayats in Nagaland, to be cancelled if forest fire spread to residential areas from jhum lands.
In a fresh notification, the directorate asked all VDBs to strictly monitor the slash and burning activities during the dry spell and adopt all measures to prevent the fire from spreading even to natural forests which have not been demarcated for clearing by the villagers.