Fire engulfed a part of the Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary, home to tigers and rare animal species in the Western Ghats, and ravaged nearly 25 acres of the dry forest tracts on Tuesday morning. However, no wild animals were injured in the blaze which was put out after a fourhour operation. Spread over a 321 sq km of dry deciduous and scrub forests, Mudumalai wildlife s a n c t u a r y, which was recently declared a tiger reserve, has at least 39 tigers in its terrain besides sloth bear, elephants, leopards and hyenas.
A few metres from the forest reception centre at Theppakadu, on the national highway, a fire broke out on a dry patch of scrub land on Tuesday morning. As at least 300 vehicles pass through the national highway cutting through the sanctuary daily, forest officials suspect that passers-by may have dropped a burning cigarette butt triggering the fire. “We suspect it to be a man-made accident,” said the field director of the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, Rajiv K Srivatsava.
Immediately, the Forest Disaster Management Centre, set up recently after two incidents of forest fires last month, sent about 25 fire fighters and local tribals to combat the blaze. In case of a minor fire, the forest personnel normally beat it down with dry brooms or douse it with water. However, as the fire raged on and threatened to s p re a d across the sanctuary area, they used the counterfire technique: Fighting fire with fire. In the opposite direction of the blaze and wind flow, a patch of vegetation was cleared and a rubbish heap was set on fire. “The two fires came into contact and extinguished themselves,” explained the field director. Finally, the fire was brought under control by afternoon.