A forest fire has been damaging certain areas of Sapanchua, Rangamatia, Kaptipada, Sarat, Bangiriposi, Dukura under Baripada forest division, Bisoi under Rairangpur forest division and Jashipur and some of the forest areas under Karanjia division since last three days.

It is feared that unless steps are taken, it will spread to areas like Chahala, Naana, Barehipani, Barhakamuda in Similipal Tiger Reserve(STR) division.

Well known wild life activist Vanoo Mitra Acharay alleged that the fire is man made. “It is suspected to have been caused by vested interest people.

They have set the fire by using dry leaves. Poachers are suspected to have been behind the blaze,” he said. “It is a age old tactic of poachers to set the forest on fire, rush to supposedly safer place where they are trapped and killed,” he observed.

The local forest dwellers also contribute as they set fire to make it easy for them to collect Mahua flowers.

He alleged that delay in allocation of funds for fire prevention related equiments has worsened the situation.

Here the forest officials claimed that the manpower and machinery equipments are being engaged to put out the fire in Similipal.

Each range has a team with 10 forest squads and 10 fire watchers, air bowlers and sophisticate equipments.

But people here allege that the squad, fire watchers or air blowers were nowhere to be found when the fire started in Sapanchua on Wednesday.

Baripada DFO Swayam Kumar Mallik, said teams are already on the job in the eight ranges under his division.

Similarly, deputy director of Similipal Tiger Reserve, Jagyandatta Pati said fire fighting squads are on the job in the seven ranges under his jurisdiction.

Regional chief conservator and field director of Similipal Tiger Reserve, M Mohan said several measures have been taken to put out the fire. Local people are not aware of it.

In fact some of the locals ignite the fire in non-forest areas for collection of Mahua flower but they do not put it out which results in the blaze spreading to the forests.