The burn­ing is­sue of fire in­ci­dents

Business Bhutan - - Editorial -

In re­cent weeks, we have wit­nessed a spate of fire in­ci­dents rock­ing the coun­try.

While the cause of the fire is yet to be as­cer­tained, three sawmills were com­pletely razed to the ground while one was par­tially burnt in the fire in­ci­dent in Haa on Novem­ber 27 last month. It was for­tu­nate that no ca­su­al­ties were re­ported dur­ing the in­ci­dent.

And just two days later in the evening again, an­other fire gut­ted the agri­cul­ture mar­ket­ing shed near the Cen­te­nary Farm­ers Mar­ket in Thim­phu. Sim­i­larly, while the cause of the fire is yet to be as­cer­tained and no ca­su­alty was re­ported, the fire burnt down more than Nu 1.4mn worth of goods.

These in­ci­dences are not the first one in the coun­try. We have been wit­nesses to how fires in the past have ravaged whole towns like that of Bumthang and Wam­rong, and even cen­turies-old his­tor­i­cal dzongs and lhakhangs such as Tak­t­sang monastery and the Wang­due Dzong.

Many homes and prop­er­ties are de­stroyed by fire ev­ery year. It is tragic that in some cases lives have been lost as well.

At least fire in­ci­dences are noth­ing new in Bhutan. This is what is be­com­ing or has be­come. His­tory is abound with anec­dotes of how some of our fa­mous towns, fortresses, and vil­lages in the com­mu­ni­ties have be­come vic­tims to fire. Could they have been averted?

Fur­ther, fire in­ci­dences, es­pe­cially for­est fires, are the most sig­nif­i­cant threat to Bhutan’s for­est and nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment. The for­est fires not only de­stroy thou­sands of acres of for­est ev­ery year but also have ef­fect on bio­di­ver­sity es­pe­cially through de­struc­tion of habi­tat caus­ing the loss of en­dan­gered flora and fauna.

The loss of in­fra­struc­ture and as­sets and risks to hu­man liveli­hood due to for­est fires has be­come a great con­cern. In 2017-18, 37 for­est fires in 12 dzongkhags de­stroyed more than 16,000 acres of state for­est re­serve in the coun­try.

Mean­while, the causes of for­est fires have been of­ten at­tributed to an­thro­pogenic ac­tiv­i­ties, elec­tric short cir­cuits, agri­cul­ture de­bris burn­ing, pic­nick­ers, cat­tle herders and of­ten smok­ers. What is glar­ing is that a max­i­mum num­ber of for­est fires were caused by hu­man er­rors.

And fire in­ci­dents are more fre­quent in win­ters, es­pe­cially for­est fires. De­spite the fact that thou­sands of acres of for­est are lost to fire in­ci­dents ev­ery year, ad­vo­cacy and aware­ness ap­pear to be few and far be­tween.

As we en­ter the pro­longed months of dry win­ter, fire in­ci­dents are not only ram­pant but also se­vere too. Of­ten windy con­di­tions make fire fight­ing and con­tain­ment ef­forts a mam­moth chal­lenge. And by the time the fire is doused, great dam­age is al­ready done.

This is the time of the year that we need to be more care­ful and pre­pared. And we can at least be­gin by con­duct­ing reg­u­lar safety checks and spread­ing aware­ness. Some sim­ple pre­cau­tions, there­fore, can avert big dis­as­ters. Even be­ing a lit­tle vig­i­lant and mind­ful dur­ing the dry sea­son would be worth it.

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