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Unusual forest fires in Uttarakhand: officials blame low rainfall and combustible material


Accumulation of combustible material due to movement restrictions in forests due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lack of rainfall led to unusual wildfires in Uttarakhand this fall and winter, authorities said Thursday.

Forest fires are generally reported in Uttarakhand from February to June. They peak in May and June. Despite the onset of winter, wildfires have been reported in the state and have damaged more than 350 hectares of forest since October.

“Due to the Covid-19 blockage imposed on sight during the summer months, movement in forests was restricted. Due to this, a large amount of combustible material accumulated, mainly pine needles. These materials are cleaned annually by controlled burning, but the exercise was affected, which is one of the reasons for the wildfires, ”said Maan Singh, the state nodal forest fire officer.

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Singh said the little rain during the post-monsoon period has also contributed to the fires. “… the forests dried up and combustible material was added, the incidents of forest fires continue. With rain on the plains and snowfall in the upper reaches of the state, wildfire incidents are now likely to be reduced, especially in oak forests that have received heavy snowfall, ”Singh said. He added that human activities in the forests after the end of the confinement also led to some incidents of man-made fires.

In Uttarakhand, 0.17% of total forest cover is in extremely fire-prone areas, 1.60% in very fire-prone areas, 9.32% in very fire-prone areas, 21.66% % in the moderately prone and 67.25% in the less fire prone categories.

More than 44,554 hectares of forest area have been damaged by fires since 2000. The Uttarakhand Forest Department has 174 watchtowers and 1,437 station teams across the state to control fires.

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