Fires in Balochistan’s Chilgoza or pine nut forests have destroyed at least 10,700 acres, the Conservator, Niaz Kakar, has said.
The fire started on May 10 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Dera Ismail Khan, which shares a border with Balochistan, and the blaze moved towards Sheerani district on May 13.
People who live in the forest tried to put out the fire but their “miscalculation” caused the loss of three lives, he said, adding at least 10 people, including community members and forestry officials, were injured while battling the blaze.
“The flames have intensified and become more dangerous since May 14,” said Kakar. However, some factors, including a lack of equipment and coordination and winds from Iran, have made the disaster “difficult to control”.
A Pakistan Army helicopter was working to extinguish the fire but its capacity is nearly 5,000 litres of water, while another copter requested by the provincial forest department from Iran has a capacity of 50,000 litres of water, he added.
The copter from Iran has reportedly landed at Quetta airport.
The Provincial Disaster Management Authority, local communities and a copter of the Pak Army were working to put out the fire. “Teams, including local people and other officials, are working on Takht-e-Sulaiman [foothill of the forest located on the mountain] and a control room to monitor the situation is also functional.”
Balochistan’s forest is more affected in comparison with KP’s bordering area as it is denser, said Kakar.
“The loss of trees will be calculated and a report will be presented once the fire is extinguished,” he said, estimating that at least Rs3 billion is the annual earnings from the chilgoza trees.
A social worker from Balochistan, Malik Abdul Sattar, said the cause of fire, burning trees at Koh-e-Sulaiman, is still unknown. “At least 15 days ago the fire erupted in KP, while it is burning the chilgoza trees for the last five days.”
The Balochistan government on Sunday said the dry spell and high velocity winds caused the fires.
Section 144 has been imposed in the ranges and nearby zones to discourage people from getting close.
Meanwhile, a fire also erupted in Islamabad’s Margalla Hills and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Tirah Valley Sunday night. It is still out of control.
Minister for Climate Change Sherry Rehman tweeted the bush fires in the Margalla Hills at the boundary of KP and Islamabad had been controlled but rekindled due to hot high speed winds.
She said the fire erupted again at 3pm. “Seventy firefighters are deployed but the CDA may need to deploy more,” she added.