3-day old forest fire rages on across two dzongkhags

Disaster: The local community and forest officials are still trying to contain a forest fire in Yangnyer gewog, Trashigang that has razed over 100 acres of chirpine forest, including community forests, since February 15.

The fire, which started from Khachikhar village in Durung, has also spread to neighbouring Narang gewog in Mongar.

Yangnyer gup, Karma, said that the fire started around 8pm on February 15.  Without any forest officials arriving until yesterday, about 60 villagers from the two chiwogs of Durung and Lephu took up the task to contain the fire with twigs.

“We were able to control the fire yesterday by 11am, but it started spreading again an hour later because of the strong afternoon wind,” he said. “Although the settlements weren’t affected, the fire came close to some of the houses.”

If the fire is not contained soon, villagers fear it might reach the gewog centre area, where the school and the BHU are located. “Strong winds in the afternoons and evenings are spreading the fire,” a villager said. “It not only spreads through the ground, but flames fly over trees at times.”

Forest officials said the gup informed them of the fire on February 16 around noon.  After officials arrived at the scene yesterday, control measures were in full swing.  However, they said, the difficult terrain, compounded with inaccessibility to some of the locations, was making it difficult for them to contain the fire.

“It will be difficult to contain the fire even in the next two days; even after creating fire lines, it keeps spreading,” ranger Kinga Tashi said. “We’ve asked villagers to keep guard on the areas near their houses, and we’re looking for ways to reach the inaccessible place.”

But, he said, the damage to the chirpine vegetation would not be bad. “Save for the seedlings, pole-sized and matured trees wouldn’t be affected much by the fire,” he said.

However, villagers said the impact of the destruction would be felt when falling boulders and overflow of rainwater damage the farm roads in summer.

“With the sloping land remaining barren, rainwater will easily flow into the farm roads together with boulders; we’ve seen it happen in the past,” Yangnyer gewog administration officer, Thukten Tashi, said.

Owing to inaccessibility, forest officials are yet to reach the Narang gewog side, where the fire had spread close to Rolong village.  As of yesterday, the fire had spread until Gongthung village in Yangnyer.

By Tshering Wangdi, Trashigang

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