Uttarakhand is witnessing unprecedented forest fires, that too in April when temperatures are yet to touch the maximum range, forest officials said. Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that the central government has given orders to deploy NDRF teams and provide helicopters to the Uttarakhand government, even as chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat called an emergency meeting to take stock of the situation.
Higher temperatures generally trigger such fires. This time around, forest fires started in the winter months in many districts. Most hill districts like Nainital, Almora, Tehri and Pauri have come under the grip of raging forest fires. At least five people and seven animals are reported to have been killed in these fires. Compared to 172 hectares last year, over 1290 hectares of forest land got affected by forest fires this year. The state has reported over 39 new forest fire incidents in the last 48 hours, taking the number of such incidents this year to 983 and the situation is “alarming” because the “peak time” for forest fires is yet to come, as per the officials.
Forest fire activity is generally reported in Uttarakhand from February to June, with a peak in fire incidents in May and June. According to forest officials, apart from less rain in the winter months, due to the fear of epidemic and the lockdown, movement in the forests was restricted. Due to this, a lot of combustible material, mostly pine needles, got accumulated on the forest floor. These materials are cleared every year during control burning but it was affected over the past year, which is one of the reasons for the spike in forest fires.