With the onset of summer, first forest fire of the season broke out at the Margalla Hills National Park on Friday afternoon.
“The fire erupted in the Kalinjar village area of the hills. The exact reason behind the fire could not be ascertained immediately,” said Capital Development Authority (CDA) member environment Sanaullah Aman. He said that the fire broke out at around 3:30pm and it was put out after a struggle of almost two hours.
Every summer, a number of fire incidents take place on the hills, stretching over 12,605 hectares.
The area witnesses an average of 31 small and large scale fires every year mostly between May and July, according to the available CDA record.
Following fire incident, the CDA issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) detailing fire prevention measures, establishment of fire control sub stations, fire control rooms and pickets, ground and aerial surveillance of vulnerable pockets, patrolling and deployment of fire-fighters and fire fighting equipment and post-fire operations.
The fire measures include cleaning of fire lines, trails and paths, fixing and repairing of cautionary sign boards, and result-oriented coordination with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab forest departments and the Himalayan Wildlife Foundation besides making village committees functional for timely sharing of information on fires.
According to the SOPs, the CDA fire department would regularly inspect popular tourist spots on the hills such as Daman-e-Koh, Pir Sohawa, jogging trails and other picnic spots.
The department will install cautionary boards reminding visitors to avoid throwing away cigarettes, matches or inflammable materials.
A dedicated control room will coordinate with other provincial fire departments and report to conservator and divisional forest officer about any fire incident. Besides the main control room, a fire substation will also be established at Dara Jangla.
A fire truck with a six-member crew will remain on duty round-the-clock at the fire control room.
A squad of 50 firemen from the Directorate of Emergency and Disaster Management will be available at the fire headquarters to assist the deployed staff as and when required.
A fire hotline – 051-2855513 –at the fire control room will also remain operative round-the-clock.
As many as 33 fire pickets, connected with the main control room, have also been established at different locations of the hills. Four vehicles will remain at the disposal of the forest duty officer for intensive patrolling.
From 2000 to 2010, a total of 2,040.25 acres of the forest area was burnt to ashes in 309 fire incidents.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 30th, 2016.
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