Kodaikanal: A forest fire which raged on Monday night damaged many trees at Perumal Malai in Kodaikanal. Nearly 50 employees from the forest department, headed by district forest officer R Murugan, put out the fire by Tuesday afternoon. A sudden burst of rain in the Kodaikanal hills on Monday night may have helped prevent the fire spreading to other forest areas, the forest officer said.
As the fire spread upwards in the slopes in a teak forest, the officials had a tough time controlling it, the officer said. “We are yet to ascertain the cause of the fire,” Murugan revealed. Environment activists say it might be a manmade fire as it is a common practice during the summer season in the forest to clear the forest land for vegetation by lighting small fires.
The vegetation in the hills comprise mainly of dry, deciduous type of forests and Montane-shola grasslands. “In the summer season, the trees would shed their leaves for absorbing moisture,” said Mohanraj, vice-president of Palani Hills Cooperative Council, an NGO which works on conserving the forest.
The leaves shed by these trees are easily flammable in the hot weather and hence to control the fires from spreading, officials create fire lines in the forest, he said. He claims that most forest fires are manmade as people, who depend on growing broom grass, would set fire to the field after cutting the leaves. The farmers also do the same to clear the area for cultivation, Mohanraj added.
When such fires get out of control and spread to other areas through the air it causes more damage, Mohanraj said. Now the forest department is equipped with instruments to locate the place where forest fire is spreading inside the hills, he added....