Tree debris sparks sudden bush fires across chennai

Tree debris sparks sudden bush fires across chennai

06 January 2017

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India —  CHENNAI: Cyclones are known to bring heavy rain and churn seas, but more than three weeks after Vardah ravaged Chennai, the city is encountering the latest after effects of the cyclone — sudden fires, ironically.

More than 100 fires have broken out and doused since December at sites where trees felled by Vardah have been dumped. On Thursday, fire-fighters and Metrowater tankers took more than three hours to put out a blaze that had erupted behind a park on Turnbulls Road. Smoke, though, continued to bellow out of the site throughout the evening even as several commuters stopped to watch it from the Kotturpuram Bridge. Close to 600 tonnes of the 40,000-plus tonnes of windfallen trees, leaves and twigs are dumped at the site which is among the 78 earmarked by Greater Chennai Corporation to dump tree debris.

With the branches and twigs drying up, such sites — which are located near residential quarters — are becoming prone to sudden fires. “Every day, there are three to four instances of fire at these sites,” said joint director of Fire and Rescue Services M Shahul Hameed. For firefighting, both literally and metaphorically, the department has stationed fire engines at 39 out of the 78 sites.

While dry leaves and twigs are the chief cause of fire, officials blame anti-social elements, callous smokers, those seeking early-morning warmth, increasing temperatures and methane generation for the blazes. While several residents have registered complaints, asking for the waste to be removed fearing such fires, some have been setting the waste afire to get of it, say officials. At Natesan Nagar in Virugambakkam, people have set ablaze the wood in fear of snakes.

After the cyclone, the corporation identified 54 parks, open spaces and playgrounds to dump the trees debris. Later, this increased to 78. The wood collected from the roads, public, private and commercial spaces were mostly dumped here. Back then, officials had said the waste will be transported to landfills in Kodangaiyur and Pallikaranai within five days. However, the dead trees have remained.

The corporation asked people to take away the fallen branches as firewood besides deciding to auction them. “We thought the tender settlement would be done but there was a delay as we didn’t get good response,” said corporation’s deputy commissioner (works) K S Kandasamy. Two previous attempts by the civic body to auction the wood on December 24 and December 30 had failed. A third auction was conducted on January 2 in which 49,960 tonnes of wood was sold for Rs 50 lakh.

Kandasamy said the corporation has cleared the waste from four locations and are transporting the rest. “(Till then) We have taken precautionary measures and communicated the locations to the fire department,” he said. “Our staff are manning the locations and will act if a fire breaks out. We are segregating the logs from the garden waste and in five days we will complete it,” he said.
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