Good pre-monsoon rain is keeping invaluable Himachal forest from devastating forest fires. Forest officials said that plentiful rainfall in the last monsoon, the extended winter and frequent spells of rains now have saved huge tracts of wooded areas and grasslands from the fire.
According to official estimates, 22 percent or 8,267 sq km of the total forest area in the hill state, mainly in the middle and low hills, is fire prone. A majority of the fires are reported from pine forests located up to an altitude of 5,500 feet in Sirmaur, Shimla, Kangra and Mandi districts. During summer, the trees shed pine needles that are highly inflammable. Forest official reveal that forests in 971 hectares have been destroyed from April 1 to June 7 whereas last year in the same period, forest fires has engulfed 7,536 hectares of forest. Official added that the high moisture in the soil helped to check the forest fire this year.
Apart from the rain, awareness campaign started by the forest department also helped to chech it as awareness drive in the villages prone to fire educated the people about the legal provisions of the Indian Forest Act that bound them to protect the forests and private grasslands located near their villages. Forest department also undertook drives to check littering of dry leaves and pine needles along state and national highways. Before the onset of summer, 6,100 km of roads were cleared of dry forest waste. So it also helped to save the forest from the fire.