ISLAMABAD, May 29: A fire erupted hardly 300 metres up the Margalla Hills in the vicinity of Pak Secretariat on Tuesday, raising concerns among officials of a number of institutions located in the close proximity of sensitive buildings, Dawn has learnt.
The flames started at 3:40pm and engulfed a large swath of the mountain as fire tenders reached the area after about 10 minutes.
Dense smoke could be seen drifting with the wind towards the Secretariat buildings.
“The firefighters could not move towards the spot for almost 10 minutes because the road leading towards the hills (close to the Secretariat) from Margallah Road in F-5 sector was closed with blockades,” said a police official deputed close to a checkpost in the Red Zone.
“I could see fumes billowing from the mountain. One could also easily see the flames from a park located opposite the mountains close to Punjab House,” a commuter, Faiz Ahmed, told Dawn.
“Once I reached the police checkpost at the dead end of Margallah Road, the fire became really big,” he observed.
A senior official of the disaster management directorate of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) told Dawn: “This terrain close to the Secretariat has never caught fire and it seems to be an intentional fire as it was scattered in different spots of the small mountain.”
He added that historically wildfires erupted during the hot and dry season in the upper parts of the Maragllah Hills.
“A helicopter of the Cabinet Division also took part in the operation along with some 13 fire and water tenders of the CDA,” said a local administration official. “It took us around two hours to extinguish the fire since it was scattered,” added one fire tender operator.
This fire, he said, was very close to the Secretariat and hardly 300 metres away from a sensitive institution’s building.
However, Deputy Commissioner Islamabad Amir Ali Ahmed thought it was not an intentional fire. “But we will ask the CDA to give us a report as to what had caused the flames in this specific area.”
He said the fire had engulfed a large swath of the mountain.
“Fortunately, a dry stream blocked the path of the flames otherwise it could have spread further,” added Mr Ahmed.
He maintained that the pylon of a high-tension wire was saved with the technical expertise of Islamabad Electric Supply Company (Iesco) and the firefighters.
“The high-tension pole could have been damaged had there been a major delay in the firefighting operation,” he added.
He said a preliminary report would also be prepared about the incident.