28 October 2016, Thimphu: In one of the rare incidences, huge bolts of lightning started two forest fires in two consecutive days at Udzorong and Bartsham in Trashigang, earlier this month. At Udzorong, the lightning hit a huge chirpine tree leaving a clear mark resulting in a forest fire at the place called Jomtshang on 2nd October, 2016 while a day later, on 3rd October, 2016, the forest caught fire when similar lightning struck at Bartsham.
According to Dendup Tshering, Chief Forestry Officer (CFO) of Tashigang Forest Division, he was in the office and at around 2 PM, he saw or heard a terrible lightning in that area. He feared it might spark forest fire and it exactly happened what he feared. “In ten minutes, we received a confirmed fire alarm,” said CFO.
They immediately mobilized fire fighters which consisted of forest officials, De-Suups, police personnel, teachers, students and local community of the area. After fierce battling for two days, the fire at Udzorong was suppressed at around 10 AM next day. However, the fire reignited at around 2 in the afternoon. “Sadly, late evening wind fanned the fire and rekindled it,” Dendup Tshering said.
The fire fighters had to be regrouped and were once again engaged in fierce fighting. That’s when they got another report of lightning starting another fire at Bartsham. So, forest officials of Radhi Range mobilized fire fighters to battle fire there. CFO said, “Foresters of Tashigang with other fire fighters were engaged with Udzorong fire.”
The Udzorong fire was almost suppressed on the second day. Dendup Tshering shared that they could suppress almost two kilometers. He said, “We were almost done with the fire that day, when a small section in one sector flared up again. So again the day’s works went into vain.” Next day, the team started early, at 5:30 AM before wind picked up and was successfully doused on 4th October, after raging for three days.
The fire at Bartsham was also suppressed successfully on after battling for two days by fire fighters consisting of foresters, 17 De-Suups, 20 policemen, about 15 local people and 50-60 teachers and students of Bartsham School.
Causes of forest fire in Bhutan are mainly two types, natural and man-made. Causes such as rolling stones, sun rays on empty bottles, lightning are referred as natural. However, natural causes such as lightning in this case are very uncommon and hardly recorded. Experts said that due to dry lemon grass biomass, it could have been easy for the fire to start with lightning.
Fire season in Bhutan usually begins from October and last till July.
Reported by: Ugyen Tshering, ICS
Photo contributed by: Dendup Tshering, Tashigang CFO.
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