ISLAMABAD: Fires broke out at five locations in the protected Margalla Hills National Park, with a huge fire erupting in a greenbelt near the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) on Tuesday.
All these fires were believed to be man-made but augmented by an extremely dry and hot weather.
The relevant departments launched operations at 9:50am and fought the fires till well after sunset. By the time the staff of Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) and the Capital Development Authority (CDA) had put out the flames at four of the locations in the Margalla Hills, the reserve forest 18 near Talhar village had turned into an inferno which took several more hours to be extinguished by 60 firefighters from different departments.
“After we were done fighting fires in other locations, the flames in the reserve forest had spread and gotten out of control. The fire season is at its peak. Unfortunately, these fires were started by local people,” said IWMB Director Tariq Bangash, who was at the reserve area.
Five points on Margalla Hills affected; firefighters battle flames throughout the day
He expressed the confidence that the flames would be completely put out before the night was over. It took 65 staff members to put out the flames near Bari Imam.
When CDA Director Environment Regional Rana Kashif was contacted at around 9pm, he said his teams were still fighting the flames. Some of the fauna damaged in the fire were pines, he said.
Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) Chief Fire Officer Zafar Iqbal told Dawn that it took five hours, six fire tenders and seven water tankers to put out the fire in the greenbelt near Nust. The inferno destroyed hundreds of small trees. Mr Iqbal also suspected human error in the fire incident.
Similarly, another fire near the Navy Club Rawal Dam was also put out. It was the second fire in one week in the area near the boat club. Fire on a greenbelt in front of the Shell pump on Murree Road was also brought under control.
“This has been the worst dry spell that has augmented the fires,” said Mr Iqbal.
The Meteorological Department had already warned of a heatwave that started on Monday which will continue till Thursday.
Meteorological Department Director Zaheer Ahmed Babar told Dawn that the fires would spike temperatures in the surrounding areas only.
“It’s like the kitchen is the warmest area in a house, and the dining room is less warm and the sitting area is affected the least,” he added.
He said the heatwave would end after the second week of June when pre-monsoon rains would start.
“We are expecting the monsoon season to start in the last week of June. It is early to predict if we will have a prolonged monsoon like last year,” Mr Babar said.
The CDA claimed that as soon as the incidents of fire were reported, the concerned staff took action and put out the fires.
The relevant departments of the CDA also carried out firefighting operations in areas outside the boundaries of Islamabad, it added.
Published in Dawn, June 8th, 2022