IDUKKI: Hundreds of acres of private agricultural and forest land in the Vattavada panchayat here and on the fringe areas of Anamudi Shola National Park (ASNP) are estimated to have been destroyed in a major forest fire in the last 72 hours.
Wildlife Warden R Lakshmi told reporters the fire is under control in the forest range and there is no need to panic.The fire broke out on Friday and continued to spread on Sunday despite efforts taken by firefighters of the Forest Department. Aided by strong winds, the fire spread across Mammal area near Pazhathottam.
“We are working round the clock to stop the fire from spreading. However, the strong wind is hampering our efforts. We are yet to ascertain the damage to the wildlife in ASNP. No wild animal casualty has been reported so far,” said Assistant Wildlife Warden P M Prabhu.
“The fire which spread to ASNP is under control now,” said Prabhu. He played down concerns of the fire spreading outside the forest range.“Around 40-50 officers from three forest ranges, including watchers and Forest Department staff, are fighting the flames with the help of local residents,” he said.
However, firefighters have been unable to reach the forest area where the fire spread, due to the hilly terrain. The strong wind is also not helping.“The Mammal area near Pazhathottam is a fringe part of ASNP and the fire has spread into the forest as well. Though no eyewitness accounts have reported damage to wildlife, we expect it to be bad. At least 10 to 25 acres of land may have been destroyed,” a local resident present at the spot said.
“The fire initially spread at a private agricultural land in Pallamel near Koviloor, where residents were burning agriculture waste in the farm. The strong wind caused the fire to spread, burning almost 450 acres of agricultural land, mainly comprising eucalyptus trees,” said officers.
Forest Department officers said strong winds were the primary reason why controlling the flames was proving difficult. The copious monsoon rainfall spurred dense vegetation growth this year which dried up with the onset of summer, thereby increasing the threat.
Forest Dept seeks help
To contain the fire, the Forest Department, via social media, has sought the help of the public and voluntary organisations who can work with fire watchers.