Arson suspected in Sattari forest fire, probe ordered

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Suspecting arson to be the likely cause behind the major forest fire at the Satre hill in Sattari taluka, Forest Minister Vishwajit Rane on Monday directed authorities to investigate and to submit a report into the incident.


He also stated that senior forest officials are in contact with the Navy in case the naval helicopters are to be deployed as part of the firefighting exercise.


On Monday morning, the Navy deployed a Dornier Aircraft on request of the Forest Department, to ascertain ground situation and extent of fire areas. A total of eight active fire locations were reported by Navy consequent to the aerial survey.


As the forest fire wreaked havoc on the third consecutive day, fires were also reported in neighbouring areas like Charvane and Chorla. Various officials including the Sattari Deputy Collector, Mamlatdar, fire officials and panchayat officials were coordinating with the firefighting operations.


Officials claimed that much of the fire had been brought under control by late Monday evening, but they have not ruled out a fire starting in neighbouring Parwad area of Karnataka.


Deputy Collector Praveen Parab and Mamlatdar Dasharath Gawas have directed Valpoi and Bicholim fire stations to be on alert, while the community health centres at Valpoi and Sankhali have also been put on alert.


Officials said over 50 personnel have been deployed at the Satre Hill as part of the firefighting operations and local villagers have also been assisting in the task.








Forest Minister Vishwajit Rane visited the Chorla Ghat area on Monday evening and inspected the overall situation by interacting with forest officials.


Later speaking to media persons, Rane said the manner in which the forest and plantations were set on fire was absolutely deplorable.


“No one should try and harm biological wealth in this way. We have given instructions to authorities to investigate and submit a report in this regard. I have directed the forest department to be vigilant so that such incidents do not happen again. Although the cause of the fire is unclear, it is strongly suspected that the fire was started by someone. An inquiry will be conducted in this regard and action will be initiated,” said Rane.


“If needed, helicopters will be deployed to extinguish the fire and senior forest officials are in contact with the Navy in this matter.”


Later in a series of tweets, the minister added: “Earlier today morning, on request of the Forest Department, Indian Navy deployed a Dornier Aircraft to ascertain ground situation and extent of fire areas. A total of eight active fire locations were reported by Navy consequent to Aerial survey.”


When contacted, Deputy Collector Praveen Parab said they had been monitoring and supervising firefighting operations since Monday morning.


“The fire has been contained to a large extent, thanks to the coordination between the forest department and fire brigade personnel,” said Parab.


A forest department source said 90% of the fire was contained by late Monday evening.


“The exact cause of the fire has not been ascertained and investigations are in progress,” said a source.








There has been extensive damage to cashew plantations belonging to people from Charvane-Hivre as well to the forest cover in the area.


The losses will be evaluated and ascertained when forest officials survey the destroyed areas and interact with the affected families. The damage to a number of cashew plantations will affect the livelihoods of several families in the area.


According to locals, initial estimates suggest that about 15 acres of cashew plantations have been destroyed in the fire. They feared that it would be difficult to cultivate in the area.


Besides losses to the plantations and the rich forest cover, there are also fears among locals that several wild animals could have perished in the forest fire.


According to locals, the area is home to a large number of wild animals like leopards, wild boars and deer. Those that survived the fire and the destruction of the forested area would be forced to relocate to other parts of the ghat area.



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