Wildfires in the Marghazar Mountains of Swat, a tourist hotspot, continued to rage for the second day on Sunday as teams from Rescue 1122 and the Forestry Department stepped up efforts to put out the blaze.
According to a spokesman for the rescue service, Shafiqa Gul, the fire started on Saturday in the jungle as well as in the mountain range. “Immediately after receiving the news, a team of 45 firefighters were dispatched to the scene.”
gul said Dawn.com that no loss of life has been reported so far and that fire trucks have been positioned near residential areas in the forest to prevent any untoward incident.
By Sunday morning, she continued, 80% of the fire had been extinguished. “Our teams are trying to extinguish the fire in the remaining areas,” she added.
Marghazar Valley is located at a height of 7,000 feet above sea level. The trees and green mountains of the area make it an attractive picnic spot for tourists and locals alike.
Meanwhile, another fire was reported in Shangla district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa early Sunday morning.
Subdivisional Forestry Officer Zahid Hussain told Dawn.com that the fire started around 10 a.m. near Dawoot in Chakesar tehsil. Crews from the forestry department and Rescue 1122 reached the area to put out the fire, he added.
Hundreds of wildfires have damaged forests spread over thousands of acres in KP for more than two weeks. On the other hand, the victims brought to nine the death toll in the forest fires in more than a week.
Last week, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif gave the order to send helicopters to Swat to help the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) put out the forest fires.
KP wildfires damage forests and pastures over 14,430 acres
During this time, a Dawn Today’s report revealed that more than 200 wildfires have damaged forests and pastures over an area of 14,430 acres in various districts across the province over the past two weeks.
According to a survey conducted by the provincial department of forests, environment and wildlife between May 23 and June 9, of the 210 forest fires, some 55 fires were started intentionally by local people and 12 were started. attributed to dry weather conditions while the cause of 143 other blazes was unknown.
A department spokesperson, Latifur Rehman, said Dawn that rumors had circulated in the affected areas that the government would pay compensation for any damage caused to the forests by the wildfires.
Citing reports received from forestry staff in the division, he said it was rumored that the government would pay 100,000 rupees for a green tree burned in the forest fire, insisting that these reports contained no facts. He added that these rumors led to the 55 fires started by people.
Rehman said the department filed FIRs and at least 21 people were arrested in connection with the fires starting. He added that the rumors were unfounded and that the government had not announced any compensation for trees damaged by wildfires.
Meanwhile, the survey revealed that the majority of the fires were ground fires, in dry grass, with 68% on communal and private land and over 73% of the area affected also on communal or private land. .
He pointed out that rising temperatures, a key indicator of climate change, were evaporating more moisture from the soil, drying out the soil and making vegetation more flammable.
At the same time, winter snow packs were melting about a month earlier, meaning forests were drier for longer periods. As drought conditions continue with rising greenhouse gas emissions, the forest department expects more wildfires in coming years.