Navy choppers to control forest inferno

Last Updated 19 March 2014, 18:34 IST

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) has sought Eastern Naval Command’s help to tame the forest fire that has annihilated a big chunk of rare fauna including red sanders in Seshachalam forest on the foot hills of the Tirumala temple. 

According to officials, more than 5,000 hectares of forest had been destroyed in the inferno.

Two MI-17 copters will reach Tirumala for an  aerial survey on Thursday morning and assess the extent of fire mishap. The copters will drive water from K P Dam and Gogarbham Dam to prevent the spread of fire. Special team of fire experts from Arakonam and Visakha Naval base will do their best to arrest the fire with chemicals and foam sprays.

TTD negotiated with governor, chief secretary and defence ministry over the fire mishap which created menace in Tirumala ranges and took up immediate fire extinguishing measures. According to a TTD release, these copters will take aerial survey in the fire mishap area of the forest leaving the “No Fly Zone” area of Tirumala temple abiding to the Agama rules. 

The  fire (flame width about 300 metre) is moving in North-Eastern direction. However, there is no threat to Tirumala and the pilgrims have been asked not to panic.

Over 500 fire fighters, forest and TTD staffers toiled all through Wednesday to stop the fire that started on Tuesday. Several of the workers were even stuck in the middle of the forest and they were rescued by using green foliage as a bedding on the burning grass and dry foliage by the evening.

 The rescue operations were being supervised by Chief Vigilance and Security Officer G Srinivas and reserve forest DFO Srinivasulu.

A 24-hour control room will be operated from EO Camp Office in Tirumala. The DFO has been asked to ensure that wil animals do not enter human habitation areas in Tirumala and shopkeepers in the Papavinasanam area have been evacuated and shifted to safe places.

The fire broke out at Kakula Konda near the TTD’s sandalwood plantations on Tirumala, just 3 km from the Tirumala temple. It was noticed in the early hours of Tuesday by the locals who informed the TTD officials. By evening, the fire spread over a vast area. 

The fire was reportedly started with dry leaves catching fire due to the summer heat. The forest staff and fire services personnel were also forced to run for cover as the fire spread fast through the dry leave cover on the ground and even razed down dried up branches and trees across its path.

On Tuesday, the fire burnt down around 1,000 hectares of forest area. The flames rose to a height of 50 metres and thick smoke engulfed the entire area making it difficult to take up fire-fighting. The entire stretch of forest right from Parveti Mandapam to Deer Park and other stretches were burnt down.

Few officials even suspect that the fire might have started on Monday in the deep valleys of the seven hills. 

Fire also started near Papanasanam stretch and the fire fighters had a tough time reaching there.

 Forest officials added that the fire might have consumed several rare varieties of wild animals and birds.

(Published 19 March 2014, 18:34 IST)

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