It started three days back
Trees spread over 100 acres of land in the forests of Kalash Valley's Barir have been burning for the past three days.
According to the district commissioner of Chitral, immediately after the blaze broke out, people in nearby areas informed the authorities. Officials of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Forest Department, and Rescue 1122 teams have reached the site and are trying to douse the fire.
"The reason behind the fire is still not ascertained," the DC told SAMAA Digital. "Our focus right now is to douse it as soon as possible because the blaze is spreading to other trees rapidly."
Personnel of Chitral Levies and police have been deployed as well.
The lives of animals in the forest, especially rare birds, are at risk as the flames reach higher up to the branches of the trees. Hundreds of cedar, pine, and chestnut trees in the forest have been reduced to ashes.
The forests in Kalash Valley and neighbouring areas are home to a vast bio-diversity. "Markhors, snow leopards, common leopards, and foxes are some of the many animals that live in these forests," WWF wildlife manager Saeedul Islam said.
Of these animals, 10% are endangered, he said, adding that nocturnal animals such as foxes and rabbits are the most threatened by the fire. "Big cats can escape the fire, but birds and burrowing animals are the ones at risk."
Islam added that the people of Kalash are dependant on chilgoza for their livelihood. "They wait all the year and sell the dry fruit not just in the locality but also other areas of the country."
There can be two reasons why the fire started, the wildlife director explained.
One of the most common reasons for forest fires is friction among the branches because of dry and hot weather. Forests with pine trees, commonly found in the northern areas, have needle-like leaves that have a component of oil in them.
These leaves are volatile and can easily heat up. When a fire in forests such as these erupts, it’s very difficult to stop them because it spreads quickly.
Another reason can be cigarette butts. As per the wildlife laws, anyone visiting a wildlife park or conservation area can’t keep cigarettes, lighters, or matches with them.
According to a report by the World Wildlife Fund, in 2020, the number of forest fires across the world increased by a record-breaking 13%. It stated that the increasing number of wildfires is caused by deforestation and climate change.