Choki Wangmo 

After over a month since the devastating fires in Chang Debsi and Lungtenphu in Thimphu, authorities have yet to determine the cause of the fires.

The police, forest department, and the Bhutan Power Corporation (BPC) have been unable to conclude the investigation, leaving victims waiting for answers.

The Minister for Energy and Natural Resources, Loknath Sharma, addressed the issue during the 49th Meet the Press, stating that even with numerous investigations and consultations with the public, the ministry has been unable to pinpoint the cause of the fires.

The Debsi fire, which occurred on February 22, destroyed over a thousand acres of forest and resulted in four fatalities. Sixteen days later, a house fire in Lungtenphu left over 100 families homeless.

Lyonpo explained that in forest fire cases, it is challenging to determine the cause due to evidence being destroyed by the extensive flames. He gave the example of the Debsi fire, which reportedly started from a farm caused by an electrical short circuit, however, the investigative teams found no evidence of this.

According to Lyonpo, the residents noted seeing sparks from electric wires which caused the fire to ignite at three different locations. However, due to resource shortages coupled with only 68 trained firefighters, the firefighting efforts were impeded.

The victims filed a case against BPC, but the police refused to take up the case, stating that it was not a criminal offense.

Lyonpo has called on the public for support in investigating the cause of the fires and for penalising the defaulters. The government has also assured its readiness to offer additional support in situations where resources are insufficient.