Dilip Kumar

Bhubaneswar: At a time when Odisha forest department is struggling to bring raging forest fire in Similipal biosphere reserve under control, reports of similar incidents of wildfire have surfaced in several parts of the State.

A day after a massive fire broke out at the Khandagiri hill, on the outskirts of the Capital city, destroying around five areas of forest, similar incident has been reported at the top of the Sikharchandi hill in Bhubaneswar. It is suspected that some miscreants might have set dry leaves on fire that engulfed a large chunk of the hill.

Similarly, a large tract of forest under Ghumsur division in Ganjam district has been on fire for the last five days. The raging fire has caused life miserable in the locality as thick smoke emanating from the forest engulfed several parts of Bhanjanagar, Sorada, Belaguntha, Jagannath Prasad in the district.

Locals have expressed serious concern over forest department's silence that has led to destruction of large forest cover.

"Due to forest fire, the green cover has declined especially during summer season. The massive deforestation helps green house emission leading to a rise in mercury level. We, especially elderly citizens are bearing the brunt of such situation," said Ramanuja, a resident of Bhanjanagar.

On the other hand, local forest officials claimed to have taken adequate measures to check the spread of blaze.

"In order to prevent forest fire, the range officers have been provided with adequate number of vehicles, fire squad and firefighting equipment. Elaborate fire lines have been created to check spread of the blaze in forests. Local Forest Conservation Samitis are also being encouraged in this regard," said Satyanarayan Beura, DFO, south Ghumsur division.

Similarly, a massive fire erupted in a forest at Panchagochhia near Khuntapada under Telkoi division in Keonjhar district. A makeshift camp of a construction company which was set up in the forest has been reduced to ashes in the blaze. However, no casualty or injuries have been reported as there were no workers or officials present at the spot.

A unit of fire services personnel reached the spot and doused the inferno before it engulfed to other forest areas.

In a separate incident, several forests surrounding Rairakhol town in Samablpur district have been chocked due to wildfire for the last two days. The entire town and adjacent areas have been covered under a blanket of thick smoke emanating from the forests. The situation has made breathing difficulty for the locals apart from complains of ocular irritation, said a resident.

Vehicular communication has been disrupted on the national highway as smoke has enveloped the area.

"The thick smoke billowing out of the forest engulfed the town in the morning creating an illusion of fog. We also felt difficulties in the morning while coming to shops," a resident of Rairakhol said.

According to officials, forests under Rairakhol and Badabahal ranges have been on fire for the last two days. They claimed the forest fire is man-made.

"We suspect that the kendu leaf puckers had set the dry forest on fire. Our personnel have been mobilized to extinguish the flames. I have directed all our officials to keep a close watch on the situation," said Pradipta Kumar Sahoo, DFO, Rairakhol.