Authorities scramble to avert disaster as fires ravage KP districts

Published June 5, 2022
CIVIL defence volunteers and a Rescue 1122 team work to extinguish a forest fire blazing in the Pattaney area, near Mingora in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.—Dawn
CIVIL defence volunteers and a Rescue 1122 team work to extinguish a forest fire blazing in the Pattaney area, near Mingora in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.—Dawn

SHANGLA: Four members of a family were reported killed and another injured as wildfire ravaged five districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Saturday.

The provincial forest department, Rescue 1122, civil defense and local volunteers had launched rescue efforts and mobilised firefighting teams trying to protect forestland in affected areas.

Officials and locals confirmed breakouts in different areas of districts Shangla, Haripur, Swat, Lower Dir and Mohmand. The administrations of affected areas said they had mobilised resources to put out the fires, which were destroying green trees and livestock grazing areas.

Shangla locals said a massive wildfire engulfed Ali Jaan Kaprai, a village located on a mountain in tehsil Chakesar. The fire reduced a house to ashes, killing three women and a man from the same family. Another woman suffered burn injuries in the incident.

Shangla Deputy Commis­sioner Ziaur Rehman told Dawn that the fire had broken out in the bushes before it quickly engulfed nearby forests and swept towards a populated area. He confirmed the casualties.

Responding to a question regarding relief efforts, the DC said the area where the wildfire had broken out was located at a high altitude and therefore inaccessible.

SWAT

Wildfire was also reported in different locations in lower Swat, with fire breakouts damaging trees and forestland. Officials said an inquiry had been ordered into the cause of the fire incidents.

Forest officials said fires had broken out in the mountains of Pattaney; an area in the suburbs of Mingora; the Sikai and Sigram mountain areas in tehsil Kabal;the Kota Aboha area in tehsil Barikot; and in the mountains of Charbagh.

“Rescue 1122, Swat police, Swat levies, civil defense and Pakistan Army are actively participating in firefighting efforts,” Qazi Shabir Ahmad, a forest range officer in Swat, told Dawn.

He said breakouts happen when scorching heat turns grass and shrubs to tinder. Careless smokers or farmers looking to clear their land can spark a natural disaster with one thoughtless move.

Swat Deputy Commissioner Junaid Khan said the district administration had initiated an inquiry and was collecting information to determine the causes of the fires erupting in multiple locations. “We have some initial information, but an inquiry committee is working to investigate the causes in detail,” he said.

HARIPUR

A fire had broken out near the Tarbela Dam, damaging forestland in Kukar Choha and Darrah Mohat, police and dam sources told Dawn on Saturday.

“The blaze damaged both young plants and mature pine trees,” said Imran Farhat, in-charge of the local firefighting department.

Local police quoted Tarbela Dam authorities as saying that a fire had erupted in the hilly area overlooking Tarbela dam in Kukar Choha village on Friday evening, but had travelled to neighbouring Darra Mohat hills due to gusty winds.

According to Wapda’s firefighting department, eight fire engines from Tarbela Dam, tehsil Topi, a Chinese company and TMA Ghazi took part in the rescue operation. The firefighters managed to control the blaze after a 20-hour effort, successfully protecting neighboring residential areas and several boats moored near the Tarbela forest range.

MOHMAND

Fires broke out in seven different locations in district Mohmand on Saturday morning, Rescue 1122 spokesman Basharat Hussain told Dawn.

Blazes were reported from Angoor Kaur in tehsil Ekkaghund; Janda Check Post in Lakaro; the mountains of tehsil Khwezi and Baizai; Darwazgai; Targao, on the mountains of tehsil Ambar; the mountains of tehsil Safi; and the Darwazgai Wocha Jawar grazing areas in Atokhel.

In Lower Dir, wildfire had broken out on inaccessible locations in the Kotigram and Laram areas of the district, damaging precious trees and forestland.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2022

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