India — UDHAGAMANDALAM: Forest fires broke out in five to six areas in the Nilgiris on Monday. A series of forest fires that occurred during February, in the three forest divisions besides the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) has damaged at least 100 hectares of forest land. According to officials, most of the incidents of forest fire were man-made. Fire fighters have been deputed inside forest areas and are vigilant.
As recently as Monday, a fire broke out at two or three locations at Valley View near Ooty. Fire service personnel rushed to the spots and fought the fire which was spreading rapidly due to the winds. Forest watchers and fire fighters made their way through thick jungles inside the MTR to clear the fire lines so that fire reported at the Kerala border on Monday would not spread. “A forest fire has been reported at the Keral-Nilgiris border adjoining the MTR forests. A team of fire fighters are clearing the fire line deep inside the forest area adjoining the border,” said A Pushpakaran, Forest Range Officer.
According to P Raghuram Singh, Chief Conservator of Forests and Field Director, MTR, there were a series of wild fires in the MTR forests this month. “Out of five ranges, three of them have suffered damages. However, only bushes and dry grass lands were damaged due. No tree was burnt as the fire was put out quickly. Fire patrolling work is in place in the MTR. Fire fighters along with anti-poaching watchers are combing the forest throughout the day and if any smoke is identified the fighters will attend to it immediately,” Singh said.
At least, eleven incidents of forest fire were reported in the North division of the Nilgiris forests since February 12. According to forest officials, the 11 incidents occurred in six ranges except in the Coonoor range in the division. Last Saturday, alone, fire broke out in Sigur, Singara and north range of the North division simultaneously damaging at least over 20 hectares.
“Most of the fire incidents are man-made. It is festival season in a temple located in the Sigur range. People from various parts of the hill district visit it. Some miscreants set fire to the dry bushes in the forests,” said S Ramasubramanian, District Forest Officer (North Division). According to records, at least 43.75 hectares of forest lands were damaged since February 12 in the North division.
According to records, the South Division of the Nilgiris forests suffered damages due to fire at seven different places in the division since February 10. Two ranges, Ooty south range and Kundha range were damaged due to fire. On February 24 alone three incidents were reported in the division.
Around 6 hectares of forest land was damaged due to wild fire, on Monday, at ‘gene pool area’ in the Gudalur division of the Nilgiri forests. This dry season the first fire in the Gudalur division was reported on January 14. “Around 35 incidents of wild fire in various areas in the four ranges in the Gudalur division were reported in the past one month. Only dry grass land and bushes were damaged in the fire,” said a forest official. Over 50 hectares of forest land was ravaged in the fire in the Gudalur division.
On February 22, MTR officials arrested two tribal men in connection with a wild fire on February 13. The fire destroyed at least 15 acres of dense forest land in the MTR. One of the spy cameras installed inside the MTR jungles helped the forest officials to nab the culprits.