Blaze at Sariska reserve claims 600- 700 hectares

Two helicopters of the Indian Air Force on Tuesday joined a fire-fighting operation going on at the Sariska Tiger Reserve since Sunday afternoon.

After Alwar district administration asked for assistance, the IAF deployed two Mi-17 V5 helicopters to carry out the Bambi Bucket operation. The helicopters filled water from Siliserh and sprayed it over the area to contain the fire.

Till 5pm, the two choppers conducted 20 sorties and sprayed about 60,000 litres of water, as per the forest department. Chief conservator of forests, STR, RN Meena said, “The operation is going on and the wildfire on the hills has been partially contained. . .

: “...Around 200 forest staff, including officials, nature guides and villagers, are working tirelessly in the fire-fighting operation.”

Initially, a wildfire started in a small area of the reserve’s Akbarbur range, while the forest staff managed to douse it. But it got reignited and gradually spread over a 5-sqkm area by late Monday evening. “High winds had fuelled the blaze for two days, spreading it in an unbridled manner. The fire can be controlled if there is a dip in the wind velocity. The hives were also destroyed in the fire and the forest department had to face a tough time during the operation due to bee attacks,” an official said.

As per the primary estimates, 600-700 hectares of the area has been destroyed. The fire also engulfed the
territory of a tigress, which has two cubs. The forest department, however, claimed that the big cat and cubs were safe a s they had moved to the plains.

While the forest staff and administration are struggling to douse the fire, experts claim that the lessons
from the past have not been learnt and the incident could have been averted, if precaution s were taken

Sunil Mehta, member, Rajasthan State Wildlife Board, said, “My letter dated February 15, 2022, to PCCF & CWLW Rajasthan had warned about forest fires in summer given the dry deciduous nature of the forest and the need to create fire lines and fire routes. If they had paid heed to what I had written, the forest fire  in Sariska raging for the past two days could have been well contained.”

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