Uttarakhand Forest blaze

With forest fires spreading ferociously across multiple jungle areas of Uttarakhand, an occurrence whose magnitude is now being dubbed “unprecedented“, the Army and the air force have also been kept on stand by to join firefighting operations. This, in addition to efforts already being made by three companies of the National Disaster Response Force, police, NGOs and locals in trying to tackle the inferno.
Senior state government sources said that after governor K K Paul sought the Centre's intervention on Saturday morning, the defence ministry received instructions to keep the Army and IAF ready . Sources added that the IAF will begin its operation at 6 am on Sunday from the Ghorakhal Sainik school, with Mi-17 choppers equipped with `Bambi buckets' (collapsible bucket suspended from the chopper's underbelly) that will fill up water from the Bhimtal lake and sprinkle it over trees billowing smoke. General officer commander (GOC) of the Uttarakhand sub-area, Major General S Sabharwal, said, “We have been asked to be in standby mode to provide all support to the civil administration in dealing with the fires. All Army units and troops have been directed to gear up in both Kumaon and Garhwal to tackle the fires.“ Army units equipped with water bowsers will remain ready to tackle fires in Nainital, Almora, Pauri, Tehri and Rudraprayag. Defence sources said choppers may be used because of their water carrying capacity and manoeuvrability . “A chopper can carry 3,000 litres and douse flames using its Bambi bucket,“ a senior official said.
It will be the first such operation for IAF choppers in Uttarakhand. An Army official posted in Joshimath also said it would be their first such operation.The Army had prepared a firefighting strategy after studying Uttarakhand's forest-fire pattern. Sources said scores of forest lines identified by the Army have been abandoned. “We have not carried out such an operation in Uttarakhand before. So far, we have learnt that the forest department doesn't have drones and maps, and has not preserved the old forest lines to control fires. The Army will plot the coordinates of the fires with the help of the local administration before calling in IAF choppers,“ said the officer.
A round 500 UP policemen trained in firefighting systems are to be deployed in fire-prone areas of the state, along with helicopters to monitor outbreaks. This is part of measures the Uttarakhand government is introducing to step up its response to the rash of forest fires which have affected different parts of the state, according to officials.

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