QUETTA: An aerial firefighter provided by the Iranian government reached Pakistan on Monday to take part in efforts being made to douse the fire that broke out in a pine nut forest of Koh-i-Suleman range in Shirani district days ago.
The fire could not be brought under control despite massive operations launched by Pakistan Army, Frontier Corp, Levies force and workers of the forest department and the Provincial Disaster Management Authority.
Forest Secretary Dostain Jamaldani, who is supervising the operation, said the fire had been put out in some areas, but strong dry winds spread it to other areas.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Iranian consulate in Quetta said Tehran had provided the aerial firefighter on Pakistan government’s request.
The aircraft landed at the Nur Khan Airbase, Rawalpindi, the spokesperson said, adding the Ilyushin-76 aircraft was considered the biggest in the world. It can carry 40 tonnes of water in one go. He claimed that the Quetta airport did not have the landing capacity for such a big aircraft.
The consulate spokesperson said that due to its excellent performance this aircraft is also used for extinguishing fire in the forests of Georgia, Armenia and Turkey.
The aircraft would take off from the Nur Khan Airbase to carry out its operation in Shirani district, he said, adding that the aircraft would stay in Pakistan till the fire in Balochistan is complete extinguished.
Describing it as a ‘crown category’ fire, experts are of the opinion that the fire had engulfed a vast area of the mountain forests.
Zhob division commissioner Bashir Ahmed Bazai told Dawn that around 30 to 35 per cent of forests had been completely gutted or badly affected.
Meanwhile, Levies officials took five suspects into custody on Monday for investigation. These people were found in the area, though they do not belong to Shirani district.
However, the deputy commissioner of Shirani said these people had come from Punjab to condole with the family that has lost its three members in the fire while making effort to extinguish the fire.
The family confirmed that they were students of a madressah in which one of its members was also studying.
Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2022