Pilgrims' camp fire might have caused forest blaze

Pilgrims' camp fire might have caused forest blaze

A group of pilgrims that camped between Papavinasanam and Tunburakona might have started the fire for cooking food, which spread and burnt a huge rare forest on the foothills of Tirumala, the abode of Lord Balaji. 

Even though there was no clinching evidence of the pilgrim camp fire angle, the hand of red sanders smugglers is also not ruled out by the police at this moment.

With the Air force choppers joining the firefighting operations, the fire is said to have been put out about four km ahead of the popular Papavinasanam falls. The choppers carried hundreds of gallons of water from Kumaradhara and Pasupudhara reservoirs and doused the flames, preventing it from spreading. 

The TTD stopped movement of all vehicles and pilgrims to Papavinasanam and also shutdown all shops en route as a precaution. 

Movement of pilgrims was also stopped for seven hours between Alipiri and Tirumala walkway on Wednesday. The route was opened after 5:30 pm. This is the first time that pilgrims’ progress was hampered on the Alipiri route. However, the TTD registered Rs 2.55 cr revenue on Wednesday despite nominal footfall due to the fire incident. TTD chairman Kanumuri Bapiraju said that a similar fire mishap took place a couple of years ago near forest cover in seventh mile.  “We are negotiating with the Wild Life and Reserve Forest Area officials also to permit TTD to construct ring roads and stretches within the forest cover to avoid such mishaps in the future. Today, four IAF copters reached Tirumala and their survey operation is underway. These copters are lifting around 5,000 litres of water from the KP dam to put out the fire in interior forests which broke out between Papavinasanam and Tumburukona area,” he said.

Bapiraju along with TTD EO MG Gopal and other board members inspected the Kakulakona area in Seshachalam ranges on Thursday, which was reduced to ashes on Wednesday. Later, the TTD chairman told reporters that the vast land in Seshachalam ranges, TTD forest cover was only 6,004 acres. As per the last reports reaching TTD, nearly 460 hectares of forest was charred.

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