Mumbai: A major fire broke out at 6.30 pm on Monday on a forest tract close to the premises of Infinity IT Park, Dindoshi. Initially, what seemed to be a level I fire soon escalated into a level III blaze, fanning out in the green foliage; when reports last trickled in, it was checked from moving towards New MHADA colony, close to Dindoshi Green Hill Society.
No less than 100 firemen, ten fire engines and seven jumbo water tankers were on the job. As there were no approach roads in the affected area, flames were being brought under control manually with the help of fire beaters – branches of trees. Many big fire pockets had been addressed thus by creating a break in the surging flames. In such forest fires, open uphill wind causes rapid spread.
What had the firemen in a tizzy was the vulnerability of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park to the surging flames. The billowing blaze had engulfed trees and was abetted by the wind and dry leaves. The scarred area was spread over a three-four kilometres radius. The local police stations and the forest staff in the park had been alerted and asked to evacuate cattle and tribals living in the vicinity. Till the time of going to press, there were no reports of any casualties.
Due to the density of the forest cover, the fire officials were finding it extremely difficult to manoeuvre their vehicles and deploy the two small hose pipes available to them. In fact, perforce, they used green branches to stomp out the fire. Fire engines were also diverted from Film City.
Department officials said the cause of the fire will be investigated but preliminary reports said it started in a dry forest tract. Anwar Ahmed, Chief Conservator of Forest (CCF) of the National Park, said, “The fire had occurred at a spot nearly 300 to 400 metres away from our jurisdiction. But now our team will be camping in the area overnight.”
The fire department got into action immediately after receiving a call at 6.49 pm. The Disaster Management Control Room was asked to inform all police stations in the surrounding area. Activists, who have been protesting against the usurping of land for various projects, said the area is home to many species of animals, birds and trees of great botanical value.
“There might be no human casualties but there might be a huge green cover loss. Also, it is likely that there may be many animals and birds stuck in the forest fire. The cause also needs to be investigated as it may be an attempt to encroach upon land and render it barren,’’ said Zoro Bathena, an activist. Officials said they suspect the fire had been lit inside the forest.