Shimla – Himachal Pradesh is grappling with a severe forest fire crisis as the number of incidents has crossed the thousand mark, setting a new record. The fires have caused extensive damage to property, wildlife, and vegetation, claiming two lives in the past 24 hours.

From Tuesday evening to Wednesday evening, 93 new fire incidents were reported across various forest circles, affecting 881 hectares of forest land. Despite relentless efforts by the Himachal Pradesh Forest Department, fires continue to rage, particularly in the Taradevi forest area, where firefighting efforts continued late into the night.

Tragically, two people have lost their lives. An elderly man succumbed to the flames while attempting to extinguish a fire in Bharari, Bilaspur. In a separate incident, an Anganwadi worker died from smoke inhalation in Deotsidh, Hamirpur.

In Solan district, the fires have reached residential and commercial areas, causing extensive damage. A mechanic’s shop and house in Dharampur were destroyed, resulting in a loss estimated at three crores. Additionally, two junk warehouses in the Haryana area near the Jhadmajri industrial zone caught fire. Firefighting teams from Baddi, Himachal, and Kalka, Haryana managed to control the blaze, but not before significant damage was done. Meanwhile, another junk warehouse in Shahpur village remains ablaze.

The fires have also reached educational institutions. Late on Tuesday night, the Government Senior Secondary School Chandi in the Arki area suffered damage. The fire destroyed toilet pipes, a water tank in the Ayush Vatika, and some old furniture. Concurrently, the forest in Quarni on the Ramshahr-Nand road has been burning since Tuesday, affecting four nearby panchayats.

Shimla, the capital, has reported fires at 14 different locations. While most fires have been brought under control, the damage is substantial, with hundreds of trees, plants, and green fodder burnt. In Sarahan, Sirmaur, a fire destroyed about 50 bighas of land, and firefighting efforts continued throughout the night.

The financial year 2023-24 has seen 1080 forest fire incidents, with 10,354 hectares of forest land destroyed. This year, plantations from the past two years covering 2,195 hectares have also been lost. Comparatively, 681 incidents were recorded in the previous year, 860 in 2022-23, and only 33 during 2021-22.

Dharamshala Circle has witnessed the highest number of incidents, with 34 fires reported, affecting 124.95 hectares. Other affected areas include Mandi (106.25 hectares), Shimla (381.2 hectares), Solan (62 hectares), Hamirpur (28.5 hectares), and Bilaspur (15 hectares).

In Bilaspur, the forest fire reached Shaktipeeth Shri Nainadevi Ji Nagar, burning two cars parked outside a hotel. Fortunately, the fire brigade prevented the fire from spreading to the nearby ropeway and gas cylinder store.

As the state battles these devastating fires, the toll on human life, property, and natural resources continues to rise, highlighting the urgent need for effective fire management strategies and resources to combat this growing menace.