Forest guard charred to death in fire at Bandipur National Park
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Forest guard charred to death in fire at Bandipur National Park

February 19, 2017

A forest guard was charred to death and four others including three Forest Department staff sustained burn injuries while they were trying to douse a fire that broke out in Kalkere Range of Bandipur National Park yesterday morning.

The victim has been identified as 28-year-old Murigeppa Tammangol a forest guard in Kalkere Range. He died of asphyxiation and burns. The others who were injured are Range Forest Officers Gangadhar, Forest Watchers Manu, Manju and Nayaka of Maleyur.

According to Forest Officials, Murigeppa, was stomping out the fire and collapsed due to suffocation and suffered burn injuries. He moved fast into the fire not knowing that he was gradually surrounded by thick smoke. While the men were able to douse fire on their route, the entire area was engulfed in thick pile of smoke.

Murigeppa, who belonged to the 2011 batch of recruits and is from Vijayapura, is believed to have been trapped among the thick lantana vegetation which has enveloped vast swathes of Bandipur, and is highly combustible.

There was wind blowing from all directions and Murigeppa could not escape from the spreading flames, said officials. The victim had married about  one and a half year ago has a three-month- old baby.

RFO Gangadhar had hired other watchers from the local tribal colony. The injured who had been admitted to the General Hospital in Saragur in H.D. Kote taluk have been shifted to Apollo Hospital in Mysuru. They were shifted this morning by ACF Belliappa and RFO Mahesh.

The fire was noticed at around 11 am at 6 places and due to strong winds, the fire spread rapidly. Dried lantana weeds, leaves and grass added to the inferno forcing the animals to run helter-skelter. The sudden forest fire that spread rapidly turned hundreds of acres into ashes. As the fire spread, officials summoned personnel from neighbouring Nagarahole National Park and Chamarajanagar to douse the inferno and more than 400 personnel tried to contain the spread of fire.

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MISCREANTS SUSPECTED: While the immediate cause of the fire is not known, it has been established that most of the fires are caused by humans. In many cases, the dry vegetation is set ablaze by miscreants from the local community to wreak revenge when they are booked by the authorities for being in conflict with the law.

Bandipur is going through one of the worst dry spells in recent memory and though forest fires are an annual affair in view of its dry deciduous vegetation, the intensity of drought this year  is high.

The National Park has suffered from two consecutive years of dry spell, and the failure of the South-West Monsoon this year has aggravated the situation.

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