Saturday, February 21, 2009

300 hectares of Gir razed in fire

300 hectares of Gir razed in fire
Times of India

JUNAGADH: Was it a case of a controlled fire going out of control? While the forest fire that broke out in the tall grasslands of Mitiala range of 300 hectares of forest area of the Gir (East) on Tuesday afternoon was brought under control, experts say a routine exercise by forest officials could have gone out of control resulting in the fire.

A team of around 1,000 officials managed to control the situation by Wednesday morning. Officials say no loss to wild life was reported in the fire that gutted around 300 hectares (around 3 sq km) of forest area.

Forest department conducts controlled fire to get rid of excess grass in the region during this time of the year. Sources say the exercise is done to facilitate lions.

"This area houses about 18 lions and they basically form the floating population. But, no loss to wild life has been reported," said MM Sharma, conservator of forest, wildlife, Junagadh.

The department is investigating into the incident. "Either it was an accidental fire or somebody played a mischief. We are not ruling out any of these theories," said Sharma.

Strong winds in the hilly region made things more difficult for forest officials controlling the fire, said M Raja, deputy conservator of forest.

Senior officials are also probing whether somebody played a mischief to camouflage sale of saniyar' grass, a variety found in abundance in the region. Saniyar grass is the preferred fodder for wild life and livestock here.

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