The fire at Sangaygang in Thimphu yesterday gave us an important lesson. We will continue to face many such challenges, natural and man-made, as we go on about celebrating our workaday occupations. But the incident came as a rude reminder. How prepared are we?

Dealing with natural disasters, however small, is a daunting experience for a country like Bhutan. Our resources are small to address cataclysms of bigger scale. Difficult terrain makes the job even more challenging. Catastrophes like fire, therefore, pose serious risks to permanent settlements and cultural wealth of the nation.

Helicopter service greatly helped contain the fire. It is precisely for emergencies like this that we purchased the flying machine. It had to do a good many round to draw water from Thimchhu but it helped douse the raging fire that would have otherwise destroyed acres more of our pine forest. However, as the mission was underway, we suddenly awoke to the risks that random electric wires that crisscross over the river pose to emergency services like this. This is not the first fire of the season and will certainly not be the last. To ensure safety and efficiency of disaster services so, the government should urgently take it as its task to remove the electric lines hanging over the rivers and between the ridges. The sooner we do this, the better.

Helicopter service was made all the more challenging due to people swarming around as it hovered over Thimchhu to refill the bucket. This was a typical showing of Bhutanese character to stare, wonder at, and even enjoy disaster as it rages on. Still vivid in our memory is the scene of people jumping into the flooding Thimchhu a few years ago to salvage a floating log. Picture a man literally wrestling with the log in a dangerous flood. It’s crazy, but it’s not a fiction. This really happened. Such careless behaviours only impede recue efforts, to say nothing about the risks people put themselves to.

Truly deserving of our thanks are the teams from the Royal Bhutan Police, the Royal Bhutan Army, the Royal Bodyguard, DeSuung and the many officials and private citizens who showed in impressive number to put out the fire that is believed to have been accidently started by a couple dating in the woods. We commend their efforts.

As we get back from the hard work and reflect on the rescue initiatives, there is a lesson for everyone to take home: If you cannot be of any help, do the honours by staying away and making way for those who need so that their efforts are not obstructed.