Wildfires continue to ravage KP districts for second day

Published June 5, 2022
Rescue 1122 personnel work to extinguish a fire in Shangla on Sunday. — Photo provided by Rescue 1122
Rescue 1122 personnel work to extinguish a fire in Shangla on Sunday. — Photo provided by Rescue 1122

Wildfires continued to ravage five districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa for a second day on Sunday, prompting Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif to deploy two helicopters to aid in firefighting efforts in Swat.

According to rescue officials and locals, the wildfires broke out in different areas of districts Shangla, Haripur, Swat, Lower Dir and Mohmand on Saturday, claiming the lives of four members of a family and injuring one other.

On Sunday, as the fires continued to burn, PM Shehbaz said he had passed orders for helicopters to be flown to Swat to help the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) put out the wildfires.

The premier said that two choppers were being immediately sent to the area at the NDMA's request. "The full aerial support will boost the efforts of Rescue 1122, district administration and forest department to extinguish the fire," he said.

Shangla

Sub-divisional forest officer, Zahid Hussain, told Dawn.com that the fire at Chakesar Ali Jaan Kaprai had been extinguished after two days of hectic efforts of forest officials, Rescue 1122 and police teams.

The flames that affected Ali Jaan Kaprai, a village located on a mountain in tehsil Chakesar, left four members of a family dead and another injured during attempts to douse the blaze. Houses were also reduced to ashes.

Vollunteers and rescue workers try to bring a forest fire under control on Sunday. —Photo provided by Rescue 1122
Vollunteers and rescue workers try to bring a forest fire under control on Sunday. —Photo provided by Rescue 1122

KP's Minister for Labour and Culture and Shaukat Yousafzai, whose constituency is Shangla, said Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has promised compensation for the families of Chakesar.

He said the authorities were ordered to take all necessary steps to provide relief to the affected areas' communities and extinguishing the fire.

Meanwhile, a fire also erupted in Pesha Mor in Martung tehsil, causing damage to nearby forests. The local teams sought the help of Rescue 1122 to help douse the fire that is feared to engulf other parts of the area.

Rescue 1122 officer Rasool Khan stated that another fire had broken out in the mountains of Alpuri tehsil, adding that their teams were working on putting it out.

The authorities of the affected areas told Dawn yesterday that they had mobilised resources to put out the fires, which were destroying green trees and livestock grazing areas.

Shangla Deputy Commis­sioner Ziaur Rehman said that the fire had broken out in the bushes before it quickly engulfed nearby forests and swept towards a populated area. Responding to a question regarding relief efforts, the DC said that the area where the wildfire had broken out was located at a high altitude and therefore inaccessible.

Last night, the DC and Shangla DPO Muhammad Imran made the five-hour hike to Ali Jaan Kaprai, approximately 9,000 feet above sea-level, and assured the families of helping them with all available resources.

Swat

In Swat, 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 defence 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.

Shafiqa Gul, a Rescue 1122 spokesperson in Swat, told Dawn.com today that the fire was brought under control at Kot in Charbagh, but the blaze erupted in more parts of the district.

Fire teams and Rescue 1122 are engaged in firefighting efforts in the Deolai mountains of Swat's Kabal tehsil as well as the other districts.

Fires were reported from Swat district's Pila Daram mountains in Khwazakhela tehsil, which were later extinguished by the fire fighting teams.

Gul told Dawn.com that the fire on the hill of Kota Aboha in Barikot tehsil of Swat has been brought "completely under control". In Kabal tehsil, she said firefighting efforts were under way in the Sarsani and Dukt mountains.

Later, she said that the fire in Kabal tehsil had been put out but the wildfire in the mountains of Kot area of Charbagh had erupted again. She said that rescue workers were present at the scene and working on extinguishing the flames.

Mohmand

Meanwhile, media coordinator Rescue 1122 Basharat Ali Khan said the blaze erupted in seven different areas of the district — Angoor Kor, Janda Check Post, mountains of Khwezi and Baizai, Ambar Targhao, the mountains of Tehsil Safi and Darwazgai.

He said fire fighters managed to douse the fire in six places, while flames were partially doused in the mountains of Ambar, Targhao as the teams struggled to gain access the area due to the difficult route.

Khan said the fire in Targhao was "not dangerous" and expressed hope it would be extinguished soon.

Haripur

Spokesperson Rescue 1122 Haripur, Faraz Bilal Siddiqui, said a huge fire erupted in the forests in Ghazi Tehsil at night for "unknown reasons" and it engulfed the major parts of the forest.

He, however, added the teams extinguished the fire after over eight hours of effort.

Fires also erupted in the hilly Bata area of Malakand district.

Last month, a massive fire decimated a pine nut forest in Balochistan's Sherani district in the Koh-i-Sulaiman range, leaving three people dead.

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