BARIPADA: The Forest department has intensified its wildfire mitigation measures in Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) a day after a forest fire in Khejuria forest under Thakurmunda wildlife range in Karanjia division led to a road accident raising serious concerns among locals. As many as five persons including a 7-year-old girl suffered severe burn injuries in the mishap where an autorickshaw and Omni van were blinded by the smoke and collided head-on.
The incident took place within Thakurmunda police limits on Sunday afternoon. Sources said a man-made fire had engulfed the reserve forest since couple of days. Forest department officials of STR have formed a squad for each of the 21 ranges across five divisions - North and South STR (Wildlife) besides Baripada, Rairangpur and Karanjia (Territorial). The squads would be led by deputy rangers and include foresters, forest Guards, protection assistants and Forest Fire Management personnel.
Moreover, each of the 203 beats under these ranges will have 4-5 forest staff to monitor and prevent such occurrences. Deputy Director (DD) of Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) Jagyandatta Pati said forest fire usually takes place between summer months of February and April every year. “While some forest fires are accidental, most are man-made. Locals set trees on fire for mahua collection. Though the department is taking initiatives to curb such incidents, village-level meetings are being conducted to spread awareness among tribals to refrain from such practices,” he said.
As per the instructions of Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF), Odisha and Regional Chief Conservator of Forest (RCCF) of STR Yoga Jayanand, the department is on vigil round the clock in all five divisions, he added. All fire points in forests are communicated by Forest Survey of India, Dehradun through satellites. Besarpani, Nirgida, Pitabata, Podadhia, Thakurmunda and Kendumundi are the sensitive and vulnerable areas prone to wildfires in the district, Pati said.