The forest department began rolling out “strict measures” to tackle rising incidents of forest fires in the state even as a blaze near Badrinath Highway (NH 58) during peak traffic on Thursday left scores of vehicles stranded for hours.
An area of the forest on NH 58, near Jogdhar, was ablaze in the afternoon, leading the authorities to close the highway for traffic as a precautionary measure.
NH 58 serves as a crucial link that connects Badrinath and other dhams to Haridwar, with lakhs of vehicles plying on the route, especially during the Char Dham yatra.
Scores of vehicles were stranded on the highway as fire-fighting operations continued for over two hours. Deepak Ghildiyal, one of the stranded commuters, said, “It was a scary scene. The smoke billowed from the trees and flames were visible. The air carried the stench of burnt leaves. We had to wait for hours.”
Earlier on Wednesday, a blaze came dangerously close to an army unit in Narendra Nagar area in Tehri district, causing over 500 military men stationed there to spring into action to douse the flames.
The forest department has recently set up 37 control rooms and 1,116 crew stations to keep a check on forest fires. Around 4,500 forest department employees and temporary workers are engaged in controlling forest fires. According to official figures provided by the forest department, 670 incidents of forest fires have been recorded in 2015-2016 (until April 27). The fires have destroyed 1,350 hectares of forest area.