India– MYSORE: Chamrajnagar district, which has 50 percent forest cover, has turned most vulnerable for forest fire since most of the forest area has received rainfall for only 14 days a year. Rainfall, which is below the normal rate, has kept forest personnel on their toes as most forest on higher altitudes and on the fringes have dried. The Ugadi festival has added to their concern since more than 40,000 people follow a ritual where lamps are lit on steps that lead from Tallabetta to M M Hills. Devotees light camphor lamps during the jathra festival with a belief that they will be blessed and their problems will be solved. The department, which has witnessed forest fire in five acres in M M Hills and have doused a few more fire outbreaks that were reported in fringes of the forest area, have deployed men to distribute pamphlets appealing the public to maintain safety. As there are only two roads in M M Hills forest range, including the Cauvery wildlife sanctuary, the forest personnel have no other option but to keep a tab on the situation on the day. However, the execution of works like trenching, checking dams and developing a good number of water holes deep inside the forest has kept the soil moisture and is improving conservation activities. Forest officials are not in favour of developing more roads fearing that better mud roads inside the forest will give room to organised poaching on the Karnataka- Tamil Nadu border. The distance between Talabetta and Gopinatham on road will be less than 25 km when compared to PWD road. The forest personnel feel that the region may witness an increase in natural deaths of elephants if they dont receive early rains to save the forest and wildlife. Pre-monsoon rains will bring relief to both the wild animals and forest personnel guarding the forest. They have set up anti-poaching camps and 17 watch towers, along with additional men to handle forest fire. The department with a skeleton staff have managed to seek the assistance of the locals in gathering information and also to douse fire. The department has sought the co-operation of 32 Village Forest Committees to douse forest fire. In few villages, the VFCs will pay for the guards to watch forest fire and alert the villagers and officials. The department is employing local tribes and others for more than 100 days to carry out fire-line. It has conducted awareness rallies in and around the forest and have collected details of villagers who are willing to join hands in case of forest fire.