When fire engulfed the Seshachalam forests a couple of days back, the forest staff and fire fighters faced a harrowing time while dousing the flames as the hose pipes couldn’t reach the mountain peaks. Left with no other options, the fire officials had to rely on the tender and succulent branches of tress which they had cut and put on the fire. It took several hours of breathless efforts to put the flames under control.
Such modus operandi to control fire in Seshachalam forest is not new to the fire officials. They faced a similar situation in April last year when nearly 500 acres of forest land were gutted.
Realising such difficulties, the then forest minister Shatrucharla Vijayarama Raju promised that the forest department would be equipped with helicopters to help in fire fighting. However, the assurance remains unfulfilled even after a year.
Forest officials say that fire accidents are a common occurrence atop Tirumala hills especially during summer.
“The dry leaves can catch fire due to extreme heat or a carelessly thrown cigarette butt. We have to rely only green branches of trees to to douse the flames,” a forest official said, adding that it would be better if they would be provided with services of choppers during such exigencies.
In the recent Karakambadi forest fire, the flames spread till the hill top and it was a hard task for the forest staff to bring the flames under control. “It took eight hours for the fire men to douse the flames by beating it with the tender tree brances,” he said.
The forest official explains: “Tirumala forest are prone to ground fire which will not cause a major damage. However, canopy fire accidents are more intense and may cause a severe flora and fauna loss. Possibilities of such mishaps can’t be denied here,” he says.
Another forest officer on the condition of anonymity said, “We are not provided with any special equipment as fire accidents are being seen as a rare occurrence by the the higher officials.”