Forest fires that caused horrific damage to our planet

As Odisha grapples to fight a devastating forest fire, we look at the damage these fires have caused across the globe.
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Odisha is currently facing an ecological crisis as a forest fire is spreading in the Simlipal forest and forest officials are struggling to contain it for the past 10 days. The area is India’s largest biosphere reserve and home to many species of birds, fish, and animals including the Royal Bengal tiger. Forest fires are caused by a variety of reasons including extremely hot summers, global warming, and even arson.

As we wait for the fires to be put out so that nature can heal, SocialStory looks at some of the biggest forest fires of the last decade in India and abroad.

A kangaroo tries to escape the inferno in Australia's tragic 2019-20 bushfire

Image: Twitter

Black Summer - Australia 

Towards the end of 2019 and in the early part of 2020, Australia was engulfed by 100s of bush fires that raged across the country. The fires started in September 2019 and defied all attempts to extinguish them till February 2020 when the country witnessed heavy rains. However, the relief did nothing to mitigate the tragic loss of life and property. Nearly 18 million hectares of land were burnt, 3,000 homes were gutted, and 34 people died. Nature bore the brunt of this disaster as one billion animals were killed and several already endangered species were driven to extinction.

Uttarakhand forest fires

In early 2020, the state of Uttarakhand witnessed forest fires where 51 hectares of land were destroyed.  Forest fires have become more frequent in the state owing to heatwaves and rising temperatures brought on by global warming and climate change. The state has seen 236 wildfires between October 1, 2020, and January 4, 2021. The Garwal region has lost 129 hectares of forest cover (out of total 188 hectares) to 96 fires. 

Dzuko Valley, Nagaland

In January 2021, a forest fire broke out in Nagaland's Dzukou valley and started spreading to the hills of neighbouring Manipur. The fire broke out in the valley on December 29. While the fires were initially confined to Nagaland, they soon started to spread to other areas. Teams of the fire brigade, local police, Nagaland and Manipur state disaster response force teams, and some NGOs worked continuously to check the fire. Finally, the AirForce had to intervene to help put out the flames.

Bandipur in Karnataka saw devastating forest fires in February 2019.

Image: Twitter

Bandipur National Park, Karnataka

In February 2019, forest fires broke out across Bandipur National Park in Karnataka. Over 10,920 acres were gutted in five days. The fire also impacted the Mudumalai forest in Tamil Nadu, causing damage to around 40 acres. It was reported to be an act of arson when two shepherds allegedly started the fire to scare tigers and prevent them from attacking their cattle. 

Camp Fire, California

This is considered one of the most destructive wildfires ever in California's history. The fire started on November 8, 2018, due to a faulty electric transmission line. It raged for 17 days destroying 153,336 acres, 18,804 buildings, and causing damage worth $16.5 billion.

Flames engulf the vegetation as rescue workers try to save people during the 2018 California fires

Attica Wildfire, Greece

Greece witnessed deadly wildfires in July 2018 as multiple fires blazed across resort areas near Athens in the Attica region. The town of Mati and the village of Neos Voutzas were both severely affected. More than 100 people died, many of whom were fleeing the blaze, and over 1,000 buildings were destroyed. It is said that the fires were started accidentally by a 65-year-old man who was burning wood in his garden.

Edited by Megha Reddy

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