Over 230 homes, animal sheds gutted in multiple fires across western Nepal since Saturday

Over 230 homes, animal sheds gutted in multiple fires across western Nepal since Saturday

Over the past two days, a spate of fires—both house fires and forest fires—have wreaked havoc in various districts. An elderly woman died in Rukum West while more than 230 houses and animal sheds were destroyed in Gulmi, Arghakhanchi, Rupandehi and Saptari districts, destroying property worth millions of rupees.

Seventy-year-old Budi Kami was burnt to death while she attempted to protect her house from forest fire in Nipane village in ward 3 of Baphikot Rural Municipality in Rukum West on Sunday. According to Janak Kumar Batha, chairman of Baphikot Rural Municipality, the incident happened as the victim attempted to control forest fire by destroying her house.

The forest fire entered the settlement and destroyed four houses including that of Budi Kami. Batha said the houses of Yuvaraj BK, Ananta BK and Dhan Bahadur Bohara were destroyed by the forest fire. “Security personnel have been deployed in the affected area to control the fires. Efforts are on, with the assistance of locals, to control fires from spreading and save lives and property,” said Bishnu Prasad Shrestha, Police Inspector at the District Police Office in Rukum West. The fires destroyed scores of hectares of forest land in several forests in the district.

After forest fires entered human settlements in Gulmi, around 89 houses and animal sheds were completely destroyed on Saturday. Ishma, Madane, Malika, Gulmi Durbar Rurukshetra, and Chhatrakot Dhurkot rural municipalities and Musikot Municipality of the district are affected by fire.

According to Deputy Superintendent of Police Shankar Pokhrel of the Gulmi District Police Office, two people were injured, while 83 domesticated animals were killed and nine were injured in the fires. Similarly, two rice mills, a tractor, two shops, and a temple, were also destroyed in the district.

The injured were two male residents of Ishma-1 and Musikot-1.

The fire destroyed 27 houses, 33 sheds, a tractor, two rice mills, and two shops in different wards of Ishma Rural Municipality, whereas a couple of houses were destroyed in other local units, said Pokhrel.

“Complete details of the damage caused by the fires are yet to come,” Pokhrel added.

On Saturday night, all the victims were living under the open sky. Only on Sunday did the Nepal Red Cross Society provide assistance in some areas, whereas other victims still have not received any relief.

Ishma Rural Municipality, the most affected local unit, has announced that it will provide a month’s salary of the people’s representatives and five percent of the monthly salary of the employees to the fire relief fund to help the rescue and relief efforts.

According to the District Police Office, forest fires in a few places have come under control, but they have not been able to control the fires in eight other places.

Rajan Kunwar, information officer at the Division Forest Office, Gulmi, said that around eight hectares of forest have been destroyed by fire in two days.

“People in rural areas still burn hay in their fields and near their houses for planting new crops and for fertiliser, and such activities have contributed to the spread of fires. Due to a lack of awareness in remote areas, and a lack of strict laws, people knowingly and inadvertently start forest fires,” said Kuwar. “The federal and other agencies conduct awareness programmes in the district headquarters, but these have not been effective. Such awareness efforts usually fail to reach the local residents living away from the district headquarters,” Kunwar added.

In Rupandehi, around 50 houses in separate incidents of fire in Rohini and Gaidahawa rural municipalities on Saturday.

A fire, which was started to burn wheat stalks, quickly spread to settlements and destroyed 50 houses at ward 4, 5 and 6 of the Rohini Municipality. Many of the houses were burnt to a cinder while several more suffered partial damage in the inferno.

Fanned by winds, the fire engulfed the settlement in no time and the locals could not salvage their belongings. According to Bidhya Prasad Yadav, the rural municipality chief, the fire destroyed property worth more than Rs10 million. Security personnel from the Nepal Army, Nepal Police, and Armed Police Force, and local residents brought the fire under control after a few hours. The rural municipality on Sunday distributed relief materials and Rs3,000 cash to each affected family as immediate relief.

Likewise, a fire destroyed a thatch-roof house belonging to Balemindra Lodha in ward 7 of Gaidahawa on Saturday. Police said nine goats were also killed in the incident.

In Arghakhanchi, as many as 43 houses and sheds were destroyed in various incidents of fires on Saturday. According to Police Inspector Dipendra Rawal of the District Police Office in Arghakhanchi, 20 houses and 23 sheds were destroyed in the district.

Thirteen houses and 10 animal sheds were gutted in Dharapani village of Bhumikasthan Rural Municipality while five houses and eight sheds were burnt to ashes in Shitganga Municipality in the district.

On the same day, two houses and five sheds in Panini Rural Municipality were also destroyed by a fire.

Fires are continuing unchecked in several districts of Lumbini Province this year. According to Dilaram Paudel, the information officer at the provincial Ministry of Forest, Environment, Tourism and Drinking Water, the fire incidents occurred in more than 300 places in the province this year. A total of 11,448 hectares of forests have been affected by the wildfires.

“Gulmi is the hardest hit by fire, mainly forest fires. Several incidents of fire have been reported in Kapilvastu, Arghakhanchi, Palpa, Pyuthan, Bardiya and Rupandehi districts. We are assessing the damage caused,” said Paudel.

As per the data available at Provincial Police Office in Lumbini, a total of 25 people including six children died in fire incidents in the current fiscal year of 2023-24.

In Saptari, a total of 24 houses were burnt to ashes in a Dalit settlement in ward 5 of Kanchanrup Municipality on Sunday. The fire started from a hearth in a shed belonging to Lalmohan Sardar at around 3pm.

According to Deputy Superintendent of Police Dhundiraj Neupane, 24 tin-roof houses of 12 families were destroyed in the inferno. Preliminary police investigation has put the property losses at around Rs 2.4 million. Security personnel and local residents aided by three fire engines brought the inferno under control after an hour and a half.

Over 230 homes, animal sheds gutted in multiple fires across western Nepal since Saturday

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