Lack of fire lines cause for blaze in tiger reserve, opine experts

The failure in creating fire lines around the Bandipur Tiger Reserve (BTR), especially in the beat areas, is said to be one of the reasons for the raging fire that destroyed acres of forest at Kalkere range, Bandipur Tiger Reserve, opine wildlife experts.

Fire lines help in controlling accidental forest fires from spreading. However, the Forest department personnel claimed that they have been successful in containing the fire by 99%, on Tuesday. The fire that claimed the life of a forest guard, at Kalkere and Moleyuru forest range in HD Kote taluk, Mysuru district, had spread to north Begur and Gundre range also. A large number of Forest department personnel are camping on the spot to douse the flames with the help of local residents.

Creating fire lines is a traditional approach to prevent wildfires from spreading. The Forest department personnel usually create fire lines well before the onset of summer. Fire lines are also set up near the game road (view line), where tourist vehicles move and also on main roads that pass through the forests. The lines extend up to 50 feet on both the sides. Dry leaves of the trees, lantana and other bushes are burnt to create fire lines.

Beat regions

Fire lines are created dividing the forest into beat regions. Each beat region has five to six fire lines (minimum width of 20 ft). The area between two fire lines is said to be from 100 acres to 200 acres. In case of wildfire, only the vegetation between two fire lines is destroyed and the blaze does not spread to the other region.

The system is being followed since decades and view lines are created to enable wildlife enthusiasts get a glimpse of the animals. As the region turns bushy during monsoon, fire lines are created during summer. However, claiming that poachers enter forests through these fire lines, the Forest department stopped creation of fire lines in deep forests eight years ago, which is the reason for the destruction of forest now, said an expert on condition of anonymity.

He explained that decades ago fire lines were created to protect the forest, but the order of the Forest department against it has resulted in these lines disappearing over time. Hence, it has become difficult to control fire. Green leaves are used to beat the spreading fire, but due to drought, there is no greenery in the forest, he pointed out.

This year, fire lines have been created near the main roads and highways in Bandipur at a cost of Rs 1.13 crore.
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