MYSURU: Over 2,500 acres of forest in Bandipur area have been destroyed in a fire that spread over a stretch of seven km in the last four days.With the fire spreading rapidly due to winds, the authorities closed the Gundlupet-Ooty highway and also cancelled safari in Bandipur National Park.Strong winds are making the job of firefighters, forest staff and volunteers who are working around-the-clock to douse the flames, a challenging one.
The fire that engulfed Kundakere Range, spread to Barakatte and Guddakere, then to the Himavathi Gopalswamy hills. It also destroyed forests in Jarkal Kere and Gowri Kalu hills posing a threat to the abundant flora and funa here. Hundreds of snakes, rabbits, lizards and other species have been killed, besides reduction to cinders of thousands of trees in the raging fire.There was no forest-fire incident in Bandipur National Park for the last two years. This one in the beginning of summer has left forest officials a worried lot. It will be a challenge to check such incidents in the next two-three months.
“Over 150 people are working to douse the fire and more local tribal folk are expected to join hands. They are trying their best to check the spread of fire to NH 67 that passes through the national park,” a source said.A number of passengers and tourists have been stranded at Melukamanahalli Gate in Bandipur. As the fire ravaged the park reportedly from three-four different spots, there is speculation that it could have been intentionally started by miscreants. Conservator of Forest Ambadi Mahadev said that the department was investigating the matter, and had stepped up vigil in the park.