Crews scramble to tackle fresh wildfires in KP's Shangla

Published June 16, 2022
News fires erupt in forests of KP's Shangla. — Photo provided to author by Shangla District Comissioner Ziaur Rehman
News fires erupt in forests of KP's Shangla. — Photo provided to author by Shangla District Comissioner Ziaur Rehman

Authorities and rescue officials amped up efforts on Thursday to put out fresh wildfires that erupted in the forests of the Alpuri and Martung tehsils in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Shangla yesterday morning.

The district has been fighting a wave of forest fires, which first started a week ago and has taken eight lives so far.

Read: Authorities scramble to avert disaster as fires ravage KP districts

According to a spokesperson of Rescue 1122, Rasool Khan, the new fires started in four different mountainous areas of Shangla on Wednesday. "Fire in two areas at Lilowani in the Alpuri tehsil has been raging and affecting all the forest compartments for the second straight day today," he told Dawn.com.

Rescue teams, Rasool said, have been dispatched to the field to extinguish the blaze. "They are using all available resources and we are hopeful the fire will soon be brought under control," he added.

The official added that crews had yet to be sent to Martung as the forests there were at a distance. "However, forest officials have told us that their teams have been engaged in the area to douse the blaze."

Meanwhile, Shangla Deputy Commissioner Ziaur Rehman said that a wildfire was also reported from the Kabalgram area, which was immediately extinguished. "Teams are trying to put out the Alpuri fire too," he added.

Investigation under way

Alamgir Khan, sub-divisional forest officer of Alpuri, said that the department was investigating the events and was trying to identify culprits (if any) after cases were opened against four individuals for deliberately setting fire to trees.

The forest department had registered the cases and four people were taken into custody. Cases were registered against in different circles of Shangla and fines of Rs100,000 were imposed.

Alamgir Khan, however, told Dawn.com today that it hadn't been confirmed if the fires were started deliberately. No new arrests have been made, he added.

Meanwhile, Alamgir said that preliminary investigations suggested that locals set fire to the bushes, a traditional method, to increase grass. The fire makes the soil fertile, it is believed. "But the fires later get out of their control," he added.

Particularly nowadays, he went on, strong winds played a huge role in spreading the blaze. "Once that happens, it takes the fires seconds to spread," the forest officer added.

KP fires damage pastures over 14,430 acres

On the other hand, a report compiled by the provincial forestry, environment and wildlife department revealed that over 200 wildfires damaged forests and pastures over an area of 14,430 acres in various districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa between May 23 and June 9.

Of the 210 wildfire incidents, some 55 blazes have been started intentionally by local people and 12 ascribed to dry weather conditions while the cause of another 143 blazes is unknown, it stated.

The report stated that majority of the blazes were ground fires, in dry grasses, with 68 per cent in communal and private lands and over 73 per cent of the affected area also either communal or private land.

According to it, rising temperatures, a key indicator of climate change, evaporate more moisture from the ground, drying out the soil, and making vegetation more flammable.

At the same time, winter snow packs were melting about a month earlier, meaning the forests are drier for longer periods of time. As drought and heat continues with rising greenhouse gas emissions, the forestry department expected more wildfires in years ahead.

Opinion

Editorial

Beyond the pale
Updated 09 Aug, 2022

Beyond the pale

When such ugliness is unleashed, everyone at some point suffers the fallout.
Burying Gaza
09 Aug, 2022

Burying Gaza

IT is a sad commentary on the politics of the Middle East that even its most tragic human stories get defaced and...
Celebrate the athlete
09 Aug, 2022

Celebrate the athlete

TALK about delivering on your promise: javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem did that in the grandest style at the...
An unseemly dispute
08 Aug, 2022

An unseemly dispute

THERE is clarity, but perhaps not of the kind that Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial hoped to achieve when...
Unfair on taxpayers
Updated 08 Aug, 2022

Unfair on taxpayers

Unfair move has drawn valid criticism as it coincides with drastic increase in income tax on salaried people and corporates.
Polio nightmare
08 Aug, 2022

Polio nightmare

AS if the resurgence of polio in southern KP were not enough, officials and international monitoring bodies must now...