The season of fire is upon us. Recently, in a span of a week, Thimphu saw two forest fires – one above Simtokha Dzong and the other at Serbithang. Going by how frequent such incidences are, especially during winter, we can expect many more.

Among the many causes of forest fire, burning debris in orchards, leaving fires in the forest or on the roadside unattended and electric short circuits are the main. It is believed that the forest fire that occurred at Serbithang was caused by picnickers. This means people were careless. At this time of winter, forest floors are dry and strong winds create perfect condition for forest fire. Whoever they are, they ought to be brought before the law.

What we must remember is that forest fire is a costly affair. Therefore, it is time we are extra careful with fire that could destroy our forests by acres. Our efforts to reforest the bare slopes cannot go in vain.

Because most of the causes of forest fire are man-made, they can be prevented. It is incumbent on us all to prevent the destruction of our forests that are home to some of the rare bird and animal species. We can, for example, remind campers and picnickers not to leave fires unattended. Adults could advise children not to play with fire. Although small, these measures will go a long way in preventing forest fires. This should happen.

What we really need is measures that are practical. As in the ancient days, we could have risups and mesups (sentinels), especially during winter and early spring months, who will keep watch and report the first sign of fire to the communities. We could even employ them with remuneration and benefits.  If efforts are not made to douse the fire when it is small, it can be unmanageable. What we also badly need is coordination among agencies and offices that will allow us to raise volunteers at such times.

All these are just some measures that could be very useful to prevent forest fire. But what is critically vital is that we must be responsible citizens. Only then will all our efforts and measuresS succeed.