Cause of fire yet to be established
Persistent fires in contiguous forests behind Mumbai’s Goregaon Film City complex and the Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) since Monday evening singed about four hectares of forests. No human or wildlife casualty was reported.
According to officials at the national park, the fire began from Film City inside Aarey Milk Colony at around 7.30 pm on Monday. It is unclear what caused the fire. It went on flaring till we doused it at Film City premises at around 3.30 am. However, it was unclear till then if the fire had entered the limits of the national park. On Tuesday, our toll-free number got a report about fire at two locations inside the national park, around 2 pm,” said a forest official.
A team of at least 50 forest officials went to the affected spots to douse the fires. This was in addition to the two fire engines and an equal number of rescue teams sent by the municipal fire brigade to Film City. Inside the national park, however, a team of more than 20 forest officials was dispatched at two locations—Chena Bridge and Rawalpada—to douse the fire.
Range forest officer Vijay Dahibavkar said patches of forests near Tulsi Talao, Mulund, Chena bridge and Rawalpada near Dahisar were among those affected. “The fire may have spread in small patches of forests inside the national park from Aarey Colony last night itself in areas where tree leaves and grass dried out substantially due to the rising mercury. This may have gone unnoticed. The fire could only spread in parts because there are stony patches, and in some places there are small hillocks. At least four hectares forests are likely to have been burnt. The figure will be final once we conduct a full assessment of the damage after dousing fires inside national park,” he said.
A senior state level official from the forest department said this is a “season of fires”, and so some numbers of fires are inevitable. “Since there are a lot many visitors to the park at this time of the year, risk of fires also increase. Many a times, even a slightly lit cigarette dropped inside the dry, deciduous forests of the national park is sufficient to spark a major fire. This happens many times,” he said.
Biju Augustine, member of the area locality management of the Aarey Milk Colony, said: “Aarey is becoming more vulnerable to such fires during summers as the colony administration itself burns the dry leaves and grass if they have accumulated in substantial quantity to prevent local residents from doing it. However, the department itself errs in doing it sometimes. The employees doing it forget to fully extinguish those fires, which sometimes spread. About eight-nine years ago, Aarey had its own fire department to deal with this but it was closed down. They should revive it.”
Despite repeated attempts, Aarey Colony administration remained unavailable for comment. At the time of filing, fires were not yet fully brought under control.