Raging forest fires in Uttarakhand prompted the Centre to send in three companies of the National Disaster Response Force or NDRF to put out the flames and conduct rescue operations. In all, 135 personnel have been pushed into service in the hill state, sources said.
Governor KK Paul had asked for the NDRF’s help to deal with the crisis. He had, on Thursday, doubled the number of state personnel deployed to tackle the fires to 6,000. A high-level meeting he chaired of the state’s top officials also decided to provide water tankers to put out fires.
Since early February, 922 incidents of forest fires in the state have been reported in which five people, including three women and a child, died in separate incidents, the news agency Press Trust of India. Seven others were injured, Principal Conservator of Forest (PCF) BP Gupta said.
Pauri, Tehri and Nainital are the worst affected districts because they have a thick cover of Cheed and Sal trees which are highly inflammable, officials said.
Locals have being told to report a fire incident to the district magistrate concerned as soon as they sight it.
“The NDRF companies, assisted by experts, will launch fire extinguishing and rescue operations in affected areas immediately,” Chief Secretary Shatrughna Singh said, adding the focus is on taking precautions to minimise loss to forest wealth and wildlife.
Inspector General of Police Sanjay Gunjyal has been deputed to coordinate with the NDRF, the district magistrates concerned and Principal Conservator of Forest to supervise the rescue operations, he said.
Locals have being told to report a fire incident to the district magistrate concerned as soon as they sight it so that it can be controlled in time.
“Uttarakhand Governor KK Paul convened an important meeting of officials concerned last evening to review the steps being taken to control the forest fires spreading to residential areas,” Mr Gupta, who is also the nodal officer for fire incidents in Kumaon and Garhwal regions, had said on Friday.
Forest fires are natural during summer but this time they have occurred on a bigger scale. The forest fire season which normally begins by mid February, started on February 2 when two women were charred to death in the jungles of Uttarkashi, the PCF said.
Since early February, 922 cases of forest fire incidents in the state have occurred killing five people.
The other three casualties including that of a woman and her six-year-old child were reported from Nainital and Pauri districts, he said.
The PCF said the scale of forest fires in Uttarakhand this time has been bigger due to little or no rain during winter at most places.
Pre-fire alerts listing possible fire points over the next seven days in forest areas are being made available on the Forest Department website www.forest.uk.govt.
Former chief minister Harish Rawat has asked the governor to declare Uttarakhand as fire-disaster stricken state and involve locals in fire extinguishing efforts.