In the aftermath of the forest fire tragedy in Kurangani Hills that has claimed 16 lives so far, Its time for everyone to be aware of the

  1. Forest Fire,
  2. Things to carry during the trek,
  3. When and where to trek. (Timings especially)
  4. Previous forest fire records in that place
  5. Government’s current update concerning that place. (Mostly we don’t even care about this point and let me tell you, how important this point plays a role here)

These might sound funny and one can definitely ask,

What these kinds of Infographics do here? Should I go for trekking or not?

But you know what? Almost half of the people died while trekking Kurangini hills and many suffered 50% above severe burn injuries where only 37% was the limit one could sustain fire burns. This was appalling as I have trekked a couple of forest hills and I know many of my friends trek often.

Here am putting some words to them, to everyone and to myself so that, Whatever you find useful here, do share it with your friends and create awareness. No one should spread a word dissuading Trekking after observing Kurangini Fire disaster because,

Trekking is an episode in one’s growth which brings Health & Mental benefits, Focus, Confidence and Reduce Stress & Depression, that should be attended at least once in our life.

Know when to Trek

The Spatial and temporal analysis of decadal forest fire data (2006 – 2015) by Forest department reveals that Forest fire in Tamil Nadu start during January itself, increase during February and peak during March. This drops down during April and tapers off during the onset of Monsoon.

Nearly 48% of forest fire incidents in Tamil Nadu were reported during March and 72.4% in February and March.

Hourly fire reports in Tamil Nadu (2006-2015)

The intensity of the fire in particular time in a day.

From the analysis, It’s clear that Q1 (January, February, and March) & timings around 4 – 11 AM and 3 – 10 PM are strictly not the time to Trek, especially in those fire-sensitive forests in Tamil Nadu. Bookmark now.

Simply avoid Q1 Phase, when you have any plans to Trek any of the forest hills in Tamil Nadu.

Govt. rules and its importance.

A week later, there is still controversy over who granted access to the trek. The Forest Department says the only “authorised” trek is from Kurangani to Top Station and not to Kolukkumalai, which is a risky trek but unfortunately, Chennai Trekking Club (CTC) have perished in this tragedy.

They did not go through the check-post which is about 1 km away from the Kurangani village, and forest officials are still clueless as to how they got into the trek.

  1. CTC didn’t go through the Check post.
  2. CTC didn’t get District Forest Officer (DFO) permission, which is Mandatory as per rules.

Theni district forest officials say there may be a few cases when the local guides entice the adventure spirit in the young trekkers by promising to take them on a challenging route and thereby take the risky route.

So whenever you are brainwashed by these people to take risky routes for better adventure, have guts to say NO.

This horrific incident could have been avoided if they have obeyed above rules. Sources say that Trekking has been going on in Kurangani hills for many years.

Ensure you are going to trek to the safer place and I also request Govt. to curb and take necessary actions to avoid illegal entries.

What caused the fire?

While forest fires are as old as the forests themselves, there is a fair degree of human involvement in causing a forest to rage on through day and night. It is not yet clear what exactly caused the forest fire but it may be caused by different factors like natural causes, including lightning, but

99% of the fires in the forests are man-made.

It could have been any of the following:

  1. Attempts to encroach upon forest lands
  2. Renewal of pastures or regain agricultural land at the expense of forest
  3. Caused by poachers and timber smugglers to destroy evidence of illegal activities
  4. Merely fire by miscreants
  5. Burning of waste in illegal dumps.
  6. Could have been the act of the locals, those living on the edges of the forest, who set the fire in order that there may be a growth of fresh grass for their cattle
  7. To shift cultivation patterns on the hills
  8. To hoodwink forest officials.
  9. A Smouldering fire, not stamped out properly, leftover by travellers, campers and picnickers and a spark that has escaped from controlled burning elsewhere.

Those long grass, dried by the heat of an early summer, enabled the fire to spread quickly.

Key points to note from Experts

Some of the experienced tour operators share their views and it is important to listen to them. They say,

  1. Even the experienced tend to panic in such circumstances.
  2. Trekkers have to think fast and take the escape routes as early as possible without any delay.
  3. Trekking has not been actively promoted by the govt. of Tamil Nadu, despite the large mountain wilderness areas in the State.

Need for protocol

Already, pre-emptive measures like fire lining, controlled burning and patrolling were being followed. But,

Preplanning and regular drills on escape methods and routes have to be devised corresponding to landscapes and forest types said a retired IFS officer who has a PhD in Forest Fire.

Take this point seriously even when you are in your workplace. I am forcing this point once again because, Whenever I see a Fire drill happening in my office or anywhere, people feel inactive in giving attention to it. Even a small piece of information from Rescue department officials could save us or our loved ones one day.

To make this post more informative, am going to teach you three important things which we handle in our day to day life. Add more points in the comments section if you wish to educate someone. Ignore if known already.

  • Will Gas Cylinder burst?

No. You could turn it off when you find your Cylinder is leaking. Movies played basketball in our life moment.

  • How to turn off your Cylinder from leaking, when you find your regulator is improperly working or plugged off?

Just take a bed sheet or jute bag, rinse them with water and enclose the mouth of the Cylinder and call your service provider.

  • But, when the Gas Cylinder will burst actually?

Cylinders burst when it is completely dried off. Don’t wait till that, act quickly.

What needs to be done?

Better monitoring of reserve forest areas and keeping a close watch on fire-prone spots have been recommended, but the feasibility of doing so with the current staff strength in these difficult terrains is doubtful.

Forest fires have the tendency to change wildlife habitats. In the immediate aftermath of the fire, there can be a temporary loss of food and shelter, causing displacement of territorial birds and mammals, upsetting the ecological balance.

Eventually, with the first showers, the forests will regenerate. But for families of 16 persons, their lives have changed forever.

Let their soul Rest In Peace.

Thank you.

(Attached Eco-Trekking rules, which I have found useful when you trek)


References: The Hindu (Sunday, March 18, 2018)

Tamil version of this post.


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