Uttarakhand Battles 45 New Wildfires in 24 Hours, and Forest Fire Season Hasn’t Even Peaked Yet
Uttarakhand has experienced more than 45 forest fires in the last 24 hours alone and more than 1,000 forest fires in the past six months. Since yesterday, four people and seven animals have died due to the fires.
The Centre has rushed the National Disaster Response Force to control the forest fires in the state and has sent helicopters to aid with dousing the flames.
Though the state has a yearly uptick in forest fires around February to June, experts say the situation is alarming this year because forest fire numbers are peaking earlier than their usual time — around the third week of May. These fires are also burning around five times as fast as they did last year, causing more serious damage. Around 1,300 acres of forests have been affected so far this year, in comparison to around 170 acres at this time last year.
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“The situation is worrisome due to dryness in the atmosphere, high temperatures, and wind velocity. There are multiple fires in the state. We have upgraded the fire protection system to the highest level. Officers have been asked to camp at headquarters and senior officers have been assigned districts to monitor and review the situation,” Rajiv Bhartari, head of forest force in Uttarakhand, told the Indian Express.
The cause of these forest fires is most likely human activity, which is also the number one reason for forest fires all over India. However, while Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat says the fires are “deliberate” acts by “mischievous elements,” other officials believe activities like crop burning might have caused the fires. Other reasons floated also include a lack of moisture in Uttarakhand’s soil due to drought over the past two years