At Least 2500 Hectares Destroyed In Massive Forest Fire At Bandipur; Confirmed As An ‘Act Of Sabotage’

Swarajya Staff

Feb 25, 2019, 11:10 AM | Updated 11:10 AM IST

Bandipur forest fire (Twitter/@prasannamysoru)
Bandipur forest fire (Twitter/@prasannamysoru)

A massive forest fire that engulfed Bandipur National Park in the Gopalaswamy Betta region in Karnataka, and continued to rage in for four days has been finally doused, The Times of India reported.

ToI quoted principal chief conservator of forests, Punati Sridhar, who confirmed that the massive fire was an “act of sabotage”.

“We have definite clues about those responsible for setting off the fire,” Sridhar said. He also added, “Our probe is continuing. The forest department recently took strict action against certain offenders and we suspect they were trying to retaliate.”

What began as a fire in the Kundakere range of the reserve and was dismissed as a stray case, later went on to engulf the thick dry-deciduous forest in Bandipur, Gopalaswamy Betta ranges and parts of the Kullana Betta areas of Bandipur spawning a length of about 20 kilometres. The wildlife fire has reportedly gutted 20,000 acres (over 8000 hectares) of forest land.

The intensity of the fire was so high at one point in time that it spread to the main road near the Hill. Bandipur-Ooty highway was closed for over four hours to ensure the safety of travellers. As late as Sunday (24 February), teams from the forest department, fire service brigade and volunteers fought a valiant battle to contain the fire close to Tiger Road area of the reserve.

Bandipur had experienced major fires in 2012 destroying 1,000 hectares and again witnessed a fire in 2017 gutting 2,000 hectares. A young forest guard Murigeppa Tammangol had lost his life while trying to douse the fire in 2017.

The state chief minister H D Kumaraswamy took to Twitter and said that the state government was closely monitoring the situation.

State Forest minister Sathish Jarkiholi rushed to the fire spot close to Tiger Road along with the top officials of Karnataka Forest Department (KFD). He informed reporters that about 2,500 hectares of forest were lost due to the fire. He added “Our objective is to first control the fire and subsequently we will ascertain the extent of damage. At the outset it appears to be an act of sabotage and one person has been detained for interrogation."

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