Mizoram Forest Fire Spreads to Town After Burning for More Than 30 Hours
Mizoram’s southern hill forests have been ablaze for more than 30 hours, and the fire has spread to towns and villages across three districts, namely Serchhip, Lunglei, and Lawngtlai. Several firefighters have dealt with burns, but there have been no reported casualties yet.
The fires broke out in at least eight forest areas near Chanmari Veng, Chhiahtlang, and North Vanlaiphai localities in the Serchhip district, one of the 11 districts in Mizoram. Darzo and South Vanlaiphai forest areas in the neighboring Hnahthial district also reported forest fire incidents. The fires continue to grow in intensity, officials say; several homes, along with large parts of land and vegetation in the state have sustained damaged.
The fires began on April 24, 2021 — since then, state firefighters, the Assam Rifles paramilitary force, the Border Security Force, local volunteers, and Indian Air Force helicopters are engaged in trying to subdue the fire.
“We managed to control a good part of it last evening itself,” Kulothungan A, district commissioner of Lunglei district told The Indian Express. “However, it erupted again this morning and it is still going on. We are trying but the current high winds and dry vegetation are contributing to its spread and making it challenging.” Mizoram also faces water scarcity right before its monsoon months (May to September), which makes it much harder to fight the forest fires.
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As of 2021, Mizoram has had 1,607 fire alerts, detected by Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), a device that produces images and creates alerts in real-time. This is the second-highest number of forest fire alerts in the state since 2015, when the recorded number stood at 1,818, according to Global Forest Watch. The district of Lunglei in Mizoram is among the 29 most fire-prone districts in India, a report by the National Institute of Disaster Management noted.
Authorities haven’t yet ascertained the exact reasons for the current forest fires in the state. Usually, forest fire season in Mizoram starts in the middle of February and continues for the next two months. Major reasons why forest fires occur in the state include slash and burning of crops or shifting cultivation, burning farm residue, collection of non-timber forest produce, and clearing land by burning it.
The Indian Air Force has sent in two Mi-17V5 helicopters, equipped with Bambi Bucket — a specialized bucket suspended via a cable for aerial firefighting. Indian Air Force is also deploying two helicopters to douse the major fire in the Lunglei district and adjoining areas.