VELLORE: A fire broke out deep inside the Mittalam (south) beat in the Durugam Reserve Forest (RF)in the Ambur Forest Range, rich in flora and fauna, on Wednesday afternoon, devastating a vast track of green cover driving a number of wild animals, including panthers, spotted deer and jackals away from the range.
Forest officials said they brought the forest fire under control late on Wednesday night despite being hampered with no road to approach the blazing fire. However, villagers living at the edge of the forest claimed that the fire continued to rage until Thursday afternoon devastating several hectares of green cover.
Assistant Conservator of Forest of Tirupattur Forest Division M Mohamed Rafi, talking to Express, said that they received notification of the fire on Wednesday afternoon. A team of 22 personnel were dispatched to the RF. “We created fire lines and used the branches of trees to bring the fire under control. After fighting hard for nearly six hours, we put off the fire at about 11.30 pm on Wednesday,” said the official, denying villagers’ claims that the fire continued till Thursday.
He added that a total of 3.5 hectares of RF was destroyed. “We are investigating the incident. If we find anyone responsible for the fire, we will take severe action against them,” he said.
Villagers of Bairapalli village in Mittalam panchayat at the edge of the forest noticed dense plumes of smoke billowing and ash flying descending on their village at 12.30 pm on Wednesday.
“We saw thick smoke rising from inside the forest area on Wednesday afternoon. It spread to neighbouring reserve forest areas. We continued to see the forest fire and the thick smoke even this (Thursday) afternoon.
If the forest officials had created a fire line, the fire would have not spread and destroyed a huge area,” said M Manoharan of Bairapalli village.
“Several hundred trees were planted in the forest a decade ago under various schemes. The forest department has also planted different species under the Japanese-aided Tamil Nadu Afforestion Project in the forest area,” he claimed
Officials in the forest department said there were wild animals such as spotted deer and wild boar found in great numbers, besides jackals and panthers in the forest area. Elephant herds from Andhra Pradesh also traverse through Durugam Reserve Forest.