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Vast forest gutted as wildfire breaks out in Lower Dir

TIMERGARA: A wildfire gutted more than 45 acres of forest in Amlook Darra and Gumbat areas of Lower Dir district.

District administration and local residents told Dawn that the fire broke out on Sunday evening on Amlook Darra side of the forest and later engulfed Gumbat and Kana Shamsi Khan areas. They said that the fire was still raging.

“The blaze broke out on Sunday evening on Amlook Darra side, however, it was not visible as the area lies behind a ridge,” a local resident said. He added that local people saw it on Monday morning when sky rising flames raged on Gumbat side near Talash.

On Tuesday, the flames also reached Kana Shamsi Khan area near Talash. The local people said that inaccessibility was hindering efforts to put out the fire as the affected area could be only reached on foot.

Hundreds of forest owners and volunteers rushed to the area soon after the fire broke out and strived to extinguish the fire but to no avail. The forests are owned by residents of Amlok Darra, Gumbat and Shamshi Khan areas.

Malik Taj Mohammad, a forest owner said that fire was still spreading in all directions. He said that the flames turned thick bushes, foliage and hundreds of old pine trees into ashes. “The fire has destroyed forest spread over four kilometres of area,” he said. However, district administration contradicted him and said that the fire destroyed over 40 acres of forest.

Malik Attaullah, a resident of Amlook Darra, said that the fire destroyed trees standing within four kilometres radius. He said that district administration failed to put out the fire. He said that the fire broke out on Sunday but district administration started attempts on Tuesday to extinguish it. He said that forest owners suffered losses worth millions of rupees.

Rashid Khan, a sub-divisional forest officer, told Dawn that district administration, Dir Levies, civil defence and a large number of volunteers were trying for the last two days to control the blaze. He said that they managed to protect several patches of dense forest from the flames.

Mr Khan said that species of dodonea, Indigofera, pines’ needles and bushes were destroyed by the fire. He said that pine and oak trees were partially damaged and could grow again once the fire was put out.

About the cause of fire eruption, the official said that it seemed a deliberate attempt. He said that forest department would properly investigate the matter and those involved in the crime would not be spared.

Deputy Commissioner Irfanullah Wazir said that workers remained busy for the whole day on Tuesday to control the fire. He said they had been facing difficulties due to inaccessibility of the area and shortage of water. However, he hoped that the fire would be extinguished within the next 48 hours.

Timergara tehsil nazim Riaz Mohammad along with Assistant Commissioner Mohammad Ayaz Mohmand spent the day in the forest and facilitated workers in controlling the flames.

Talking to this reporter, Riaz Mohammad said the district government would leave no stone unturned to bring the culprits to Vast forest gutted as wildfire breaks out in Lower Dir book. He said that government would also try to compensate the affected forest owners.

A spokesperson for Provincial Disaster Management Authority (PDMA) said that the fire was raging within a radius of about two kilometres and they had directed the district administration to investigate the matter.

He said that the terrain was difficult and it was about two kilometres long trek to reach the mountain top from the nearest road. The fire brigade vehicles could not reach there, he added.

The PDMA spokesperson said that firefighters managed to put out fire in Gumbat area on Tuesday another fire broke out in Shamsi Khan locality and district administration was trying to control the blaze.

Provincial Finance Minister Muzafar Said, who also belong to Dir, told Dawn that NDAM would provide the province with two helicopters to put out the blaze on Wednesday.

Byline: Halim Asad

Source: Dawn

November 9, 2016

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