BALASORE: Forest cover of nearly 160 hectares (ha) in Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) of Mayurbhanj district has been destroyed in the recent fire that lasted for over a week.
Even as around 540 fire personnel were engaged along with 15 extinguishers to control the fire, the STR authorities heaved a sigh of relief due to a heavy downpour on Sunday.
Forest officials said there was no major damage to the wildlife as fire caught the forest located near human habitations where animals do not venture. The fire destroyed nearly 24 ha of core area under Pithabata range and 136 ha of buffer area.
Deputy Director of STR Ajit Kumar Satpathy said the fire had caught only ground area which was covered with dry leaves. He informed that 290 personnel of fire squad and 150 forest staff have been kept ready along with 19 vehicles to monitor the fire incidents in the forest till June 15. “Tribals, mostly youths, with a daily wage of `150 and members of Vana Suraksha Samiti have been engaged for the purpose. Fire lines of nearly 600 km have been formed,” he said.
Sources said forest fire in Similipal is a regular phenomenon during summer. While fire was spotted in various sections between March 29 and May 1 last year, it was reported from March 3 to April 30 in 2013.
Sources said there was inconsistency in the fire susceptibility across different vegetation types. The spatial analysis of burnt area shows that an area of over 50 per cent of dry deciduous forest has been affected by fire this time.
An analysis based on decadal time scale satellite data reveals that an area of 2175.9 sq km (60 per cent of total vegetation cover) has been affected by varied rate of frequency of forest fire in the last one decade. Fire density pattern indicates low count of burnt area patches in 2013 estimated at 1017 sq km and high count at 1916 sq km in 2014.