At least 40 active fires are reportedly raging in Uttarakhand’s forests. According to the state government, the fire has impacted forests in the Garhwal and Kumaon areas, with the worst-affected districts being Nainital, Almora, Tehri, and Pauri.

According to sources, the fire has burned property worth Rs 37 lakh and killed at least seven animals.

On Sunday, Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat convened a high-level emergency meeting to discuss how to put out the fire as soon as possible. He also asked the Centre to send assistance.

The Union home ministry dispatched two Indian Air Force helicopters that have been used in firefighting operations in response to the chief minister’s order.

There have been reports of fierce fires in the Bageshwar, Gankhet, Kapkot, Bageshwar, and Dharamghar ranges. Forest fires have been registered in Rudraprayag as well as Kedarghati. The fire has also hit villagers near the woods in some places.

Every year between February and June, forest fires are a common phenomenon in Uttarakhand. Usually, forest fires in Uttarakhand begin in mid-February and last until the monsoon season starts in mid-June.

Forest fires occur when there are a lot of dry leaves on the ground and the temperature rises. Any light, anytime, has the power to lit up a big fire. This, though, maybe the worst fire since 2016.

Since January of this year, there have been 983 forest fire incidents in the state, damaging 1,292 hectares of land, compared to 172 hectares destroyed in over 170 fire incidents in 2020.

The state reported 278 forest fires in March itself.

In recent years, Uttarakhand has experienced major fires in alternating years. Uttarakhand reported 2,981 fire incidents in 2019, up from 4,480 in 2018. Uttarakhand reported 1,228 forest fires in 2017, 4,433 fires in 2016, and 701 forest fires in 2015.

The Uttarakhand government has mobilized 12,000 forest department staff to combat the raging flames. In addition, the state has established 1300 fire stations to combat forest fires.

Officials from the forest department have been told not to take any vacation time and to keep a close eye on the situation. The authorities are now clearing the bushes near residential areas to prevent forest fires from spreading there. The Centre is also planning to deploy a National Disaster Relief Force unit (NDRF).