BANDIPORA: Hundreds of local residents climbed uphill to help the administration in dousing the wildfire in Bandipora after an appeal for help from the administration.
Forest officials have been giving it their all to fight the fire for the last five days, but were beaten by the scale of the fire.
Umar, a local volunteer, said that the response to the administration’ call reached to maximum overnight with locals using social media to rally in support. The message was also announced over local loudspeakers.
The fire that engulfed Khuihama forest range in compartment numbers 108 and 109 in hundreds of patches since Thursday gave the forest department officials a very tough time. At least 10 officials were injured in the firefighting operation, of which one is said to have critical burn injuries, while an officer was also among the injured.
“Our officials put up every effort to douse the flames, but the vastness of the raging fire beat us. Also it is not possible to tackle such a fire, given the lack of equipment and technology. The tools to fight the fire are not even available, forget about being sufficient,” a forest official said while dousing the flames.
Another official of the Forest Protection Department said, “The smoke from the fire affected almost every employee.”
The huge-scale fire created a dense layer of smoke in nearby residential areas and reduced visibility; many said they were feeling breathless due to smoke. The affected areas included the main town, Plan, Aythmulla, Chiternaar, Nowpora and adjoining localities.
On Saturday, volunteers from various sections of society joined hands with forest officials, the State Disaster Response Force, the police and others to put the forest fire out. The volunteers included traders, employees, students, bankers, journalists and other residents.
Children as young as ten were seen volunteering for the tough job; women, old and young, raced to provide water which they carried on their heads for the volunteers dousing the fire. Many described the scenes as overwhelming.
Allying the apprehensions raised by some over the start of the fire, officials said, “It is the dry spell which has caused it; the area at this point of time would have otherwise remained damp due to snowfall and has rarely caught fire in the past. The winds in the forest blow high, so a minor patch of fire could spread metres away.”
The steepness of the forest hill doesn’t allow any water service, so the only mode of dousing the fire is by throwing soil on the flames.
While many volunteers were busy in taming the wildfire along with the officials, students from various schools launched a plantation drive by sowing as many as 300 trees near the affected area.
Though the raging fire has been controlled, the department’s claims of having doused the blaze are not completely accurate as many areas are still engulfed in small patches of flames. Other compartments which caught fire are 122 Chandaji and Bhutto Forest Range.
Meanwhile, fire broke out in compartment No 19 of Sindh Range Forests at Hayan in south Kangan area causing massive damage to green trees.
Fire continues to spread from Friday in compartment number 18 of Mansbal range forests in Babanagri Wanght and Chaturgul Kangan in north area of Kangan tehsil.
Locals said that huge flames could be seen in the forests.
Forest officials are on job to douse the fire.
“We have almost controlled the fire and have prevented the fire to cause damage to the green plants,” a forest official said.
—With inputs from Sheikh Anees