Dehradun: As the mercury crossed the 40-degree mark, Uttarakhand witnesses a sudden rise in incidents of forest fires over the past two days with 65 forest blazes reported in one day and 600 fire alerts received today.
"On an average there are not more than three to four forest fire incidents in a day but the dry spell and the rising temperatures led to as many as 65 forest blazes on a single day yesterday.
"Today we have received 600 fire alerts from our satellites. However, it will have to be seen how many of them are real forest fire incidents," Nodal officer BP Gupta told PTI.
The 65 forest fires spotted yesterday were against a total of 373 fire alerts, he said.
There were 600 fire alerts today, indicating an increasing trend.
However, usually there is a wide gap between the number of fire alerts and the number of actual forest fires as the ultra sensitive thermal sensors record every fire related occurrence in their area as forest fire, he said.
"After spot verification only we will be able to tell how many of the 600 fire alerts received today are actual forest fires," he said, adding it will be clear only by tomorrow.
Although, the increasing trend reflected by the higher number of fire alerts are causing concern among officials who said persisting dry spell could worsen the situation.
"We have put to use the limited resources at our disposal to control the fires but if the situation worsens, which is a possibility that cannot be ruled out with the temperature still hovering around 40 degrees Celsius, the state government may have to rope in the NDRF and SDRF to overcome the flames," Nodal officer B P Gupta told PTI. However, he said the situation, as of now, is not alarming but the entire machinery is on the alert.
"The leaves of all forest staff have been cancelled and a nodal officer of chief conservator of forest rank has been appointed in all the 13 districts of Uttarakhand to keep an eye. Master control rooms are monitoring the situation 24X7," Gupta said before rushing to Almora to assess the situation there. There have been 741 forest fire incidents in Uttarakhand this year since the start of the fire season on February 15 affecting more than 1,213 hectares of forest area, he said. However, most of the incidents have taken place over the past two days only, he said.
Rains would have been of great help at this moment but the MeT department has predicted that the ongoing dry spell is going to continue for the next 3-4 days which makes the situation rather worrisome, the official said. Forest fires in Uttarakhand had destroyed 4433.75 hectares of forest area in 2016 and claimed at least six lives.