MYSURU: Over 750 acres of forest was reduced to ashes in the inferno that broke out at Bandipur National Park on Saturday. The forest department managed to bring the fire under control after a 24-hour-long operation. About 600 persons and half a dozen water tankers were pressed into service.
The fire that broke out in Kalkare Range of the Tiger Reserve had killed 28-year-old forest guard Murigeppa Tammangol. Four others, including a Range Forest Officer, had sustained burn injuries while they were trying to douse the fire.
Forest department had also drawn the Soliga tribals appointed on contract basis, officers and staff from Chamarajanagar and Biligiriranga Hills Tiger Reserve in the operation. They all battled the fire all through the night.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests B G Hosmath, who led the operation, said they were able to contain the fire by 3.30 am but leftover cinders and strong winds made their task difficult. Finally, the fire was doused around 8.30 am. He said emergency fire line exercises were also done as a precautionary measure.
Forest officials suspect miscreants of Kebbepura haadi to be behind the forest fire. “They might have set dried elephant dung on fire which starts burning slowly and eventually spread to the forest.” Those who were injured in the fire — RFO Gangadhar, forest watchers Manu and Manju — have been shifted to a private hospital in the city. Nayaka, the other watcher who was injured, is being treated at General Hospital in Saragur in HD Kote taluk.
Bandipur Conservator of Forests T Heeralal said they were yet to assess the area damaged as their first priority was dousing the fire. “In a day or two, we will be able to assess the extent of the damage and know what caused the fire,” he said.