Low down on mountain fire

By NT Bureau Published on Mar 12, 2018 04:22 PM IST

Chennai: A massive forest fire that broke out on Kurangani Hills Sunday left nine killed and many trapped. Rescues works are still on. For those wondering what forest fire is and how it spreads, News Today finds it out.


Says Hariharan, a former Tamilnadu Fire and Rescue Service personnel, "Forest fires always start by one of two ways - naturally caused or human caused.

Natural fires are generally started by lightning, with a very small percentage started by spontaneous combustion of dry fuel such as sawdust and leaves. On the other hand, human-caused fires can be due to any number of reasons. We call it fire triangle as it needs fuel, oxygen, and heat to ignite and spread."

"Naturally caused forest fires are usually started by dry lightning where little to no rain accompanies a stormy weather disturbance. It was exactly the case in Kurangani hills."

Asked how quick fire would spread, Hariharan adds, "A wildfire’s speed is often judged with its forward rate of spread, which describes the pace at which its leading edge advances perpendicular to the fire front. It’s difficult for a human observer on the ground to accurately estimate the speed of an encroaching wildfire."


In Western countries, an air tanker drops water and fire retardant onto a wildfire. While the Hotshots, Smokejumpers and other support crews fight the battle on the ground, they are given a lot of support from the air. Air tankers are often used to drop thousands of gallons of water and retardant onto fires, he adds.


Every year, close to 20,000 forest fire incidents are reported in the country. Large parts of India’s deciduous and semi-deciduous forests are characterised by forest fires.

This is mainly because during the dry season, the forests shed their leaves and allow the development of fuel at the surface of forests.

Forests in India are also burnt for economic reasons. For example, forest grazing is one of the important sources of income for many people. Burning of forests at the peak of dry seasons helps stimulate grass growth before monsoon rains, says a report by the Forest department.


Hiking is another version of walking but for longer distances. It can be done in the forest, mountains or any type of challenging tracks. It is slowly catching the admiration of youngsters as more and more enroll themselves in trekking clubs and go for hills in forest areas to live their dreams.

The best places for trekking near Chennai are Tirisulam, Nagalapuram, Tada falls, Gingee fort, Yelagiri, Yercaud and Talalkonam (Chitoor).