Chopper with ‘bambi bucket’ to arrive from Coimbatore Air Base within 30 minutes
Mysuru/Mysore: The Forest Department that has geared up to tackle forest fires this summer has received a shot in the arm with the Indian Air Force (IAF) agreeing to assist the Department by deploying a chopper to douse fires at Bandipur Tiger Reserve.
It may be recalled here that last year, days after a raging wildfire broke out in Bandipur Tiger Reserve, the State called for assistance from the IAF to contain the fire. The IAF had sent two helicopters for the joint operations and the fire-fighting operations was led by Russian-origin Mi-17 helicopters that flew over the tiger reserve with a ‘bambi bucket’ — a small water tank held by a cable to the helicopter — and sprayed water to contain the fire that had spread over a wide area.
A total of 10 sorties were flown by the two helicopters spraying approximately 30,000 litres of water to fight fire in the region.
Speaking to Star of Mysore this morning, Bandipur Tiger Reserve Director T. Balachandra said that a request for an IAF chopper to assist the Forest Department was sent in November last year to Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (APCCF) which was forwarded to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF).
The PCCF had forwarded the request letter to the Forest Department Secretary, who had forwarded the same to the Government. The Government wrote to the IAF and Air Marshal T.D. Joseph has written a letter to Chief Secretary T.M. Vijaybhaskar on Feb. 25 consenting to deploy a chopper this year for fire-fighting.
In the letter, the Air Marshal has assured that the assets of the Air Force would be readily available and it has been the precedence to provide all assistance to the Government of Karnataka in tackling forest fires.
Balachandra said that IAF helicopter that will be stationed at Coimbatore Air Base would assist the Forest Department if wildfire is spotted at Bandipur, Nagarahole, BRT Wildlife Sanctuary and Male Mahadeshwara Wildlife Sanctuary.
He said that if a fire is spotted in the core area of Bandipur Forest, the nearest Anti-Poaching Camp (APC) staff would rush to the spot and send the Global Positioning System (GPS) location which would be shared with Conservator of Forests, who would then forward the location to the PCCF, who in turn would share the GPS location with the IAF. GPS locations of three water points — Kabini, Hirekere and Nugu Reservoir — have been collected and kept ready which would be shared with the IAF so that they would know the nearest water points from where they can lift water, Balachandra said. He added that the IAF chopper with ‘bambi bucket’ could hold 5,000 to 30,000 litres of water. The chopper would arrive within 30 minutes of being informed, he added.
“We would first check the intensity of the fire and if it is small or medium fire that could be doused by the staff of the Forest Department, we would manage ourselves. For the fire to intensify and spread to an inferno, it requires nearly 30 minutes. But if the intensity of the fire is more in the beginning itself, then we would request for a chopper,” Balachandra said.
Fire watchers to watch Highways
To keep a watch for fires on Highways caused by tourists and visitors who throw lit cigarette butts carelessly on roadsides, the Forest Department has deployed 450 temporary forest watchers at vantage points on National Highway 67 (Gundlupet to Ooty) NH-212 (now 766 – Kerala-Mysuru Road) and on the stretch of the road from Bandipur campus to Mangala village. Staff of the Anti-Poaching Camps numbering over 208 will assist the fire watchers.
The fire watchers would look for carelessly thrown lit cigarettes by tourists and will also keep a watch over fires on these Highways. For the first time, the Forest Department has provided umbrellas, T-Shirts, uniforms and boots to the staff manning the Highway and 650 forest personnel have been insured.