Fighting Forest Fires
We celebrated the extinguishing of an isolated forest fire near our farm rather prematurely 2 weeks ago. Little did I know then that it was just the beginning. And, that over the next 10 days, Steve and our brave farm men would spend endless hours fighting several raging forest fires to keep our farm, home, neighbours and surrounding forests safe.
So, on to the ‘burning’ questions.
HOW DO THESE FIRES START?
95% of these forest fires are MANMADE.
- A *careless* cigarette butt.
- A *deliberate* fire so that the new post-monsoon grass is plentiful for a largely cow-based hill economy.
- Often, fires to burn garbage or rid fields of bushes are *not monitored* and spiral out of control.
WHY DO THEY KEEP RAGING?
- It’s extremely dry and too much fuel for the fires.
- High winds fan the flames making the fires rage.
- Steep terrain makes them hard to get to.
- Excessive pine trees. Our forests have been *overtaken* by the invasive pine or chir, the needles of which are highly flammable and perpetuate fires.
HOW DOES IT EFFECT US?
- Loss of habitat for animals and birds. And many, especially the little ones, are *burnt to death*. Let those words sink in.
- Water sources dry up.
- Soil continues to erode causing more landslides.
- Our precious forests are gradually destroyed!
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE?
- Change of Mindset: locals tend to say “this happens every year” and brush it off as normal unless it arrives at their doorstep.
- Proactive Behaviour: Stop fires whenever possible, esp in early hours or when small. Start precautionary fire lines by clearing pine needles and dried grass to slow down fires from spreading.
- Replace pine with oaks: Pines are a big problem but they are also a source of revenue for the Forest Dept: Turpentine is obtained from pines. At the moment, govt policy does not allow any felling of pine.
- Awareness: In 2016, there was a huge media uproar about the fires. The next year, forest dept personnel were out making fire lines in winter – and it worked! Perhaps we need another media uproar for this to become a routine annual exercise!!
Thanks for reading! Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.