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Forest fire alarm sets off

Jamshedpur, March 8: With the mercury rising steadily, the forest department has started taking up measures to ward off a common phenomenon every summer ' forest fire.

The department has already drawn up a rough draft of the measures to be taken up with help from villagers. Apart from mobile squads at different places, fire lines too have been drawn up in advance at several places.

About three mobile squads have been deployed in the Dhalbhumgarh region, especially in the Chakulia and Ghatshila range ' due to its proximity to the highway and tourist spots. 'The squads will rush to the spot and immediately make fire lines. The fire lines will be made at a distance of about five metres from the spot of fire and the basic purpose is to stop the flames from spreading to the adjoining forest areas,' said U.R. Biswas, chief wildlife warden.

He explained that the fire lines were two feet wide trails that divided one forest patch from the other. Though air-blowers speed up the process of making fire lines, it is done manually in the state as the equipment is not available here.

'Fire lines are trails that are completely devoid of any dry leaves and this plays a very crucial role in stopping forest fires. It has already been drawn up in the sensitive areas,' Biswas added.

Apart from the mobile squads, men from the department have been deployed at strategic points to put out forest fire by 'beating'. Beating, say forest officials, helps put out a small fire that has just ignited. 'Unless a fire breaks out in the foothills close to a village, water is not a fire extinguishing option for us,' said Satyajit Singh, divisional forest officer, Dhalbhumgarh.

However as a preventive measure, the forest officials have been regularly reminding the villagers through pamphlets, programmes and loudspeaker announcements to avoid any such activity that could cause fire. Gram Van Prabandhan Samiti and Gram Samitis in different villages have been roped in for the exercise ' especially with the start of the mahua collection season. 'Villagers usually burn dry leaves around the mahua tree in order to collect the flowers that fall down.'

Villagers who go to the forests to collect wood carelessly throw burning bidis around and this too is one of the man-made causes of forest fires. 'The villagers have been told to take adequate precaution to avoid fires,' Singh said.

Since the forest fires are most of the time ground fires, it is the undergrowth of herbs and shrubs that are completely destroyed. 'Ground fires pose a serious problem, especially in the reserves and sanctuaries, as the grass is completely burnt,' said Biswas.

The forest department has another tough job on hand during the summer ' managing wildlife. 'With summers triggering forest fires, possibilities of pachyderm attack also shoot up as the animals stray out. Our squads have also been alerted on possible elephant attacks,' Singh said.

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