Margalla Hills ablaze again; firefighting efforts intensify

The Margalla Hills were engulfed in flames again on Friday, with firefighting efforts intensifying to control the blaze. The Capital Development Authority (CDA) reported that the fire, initially controlled from the sides, was now being tackled at its centre.

Coordinated firefighting efforts

Over 80 firefighters are actively engaged in extinguishing the fire. The CDA, in a post on X (formerly Twitter), stated, “They have encircled the fire from sides, controlled it from sides and now the efforts are concentrated on [the] centre-point.” Additional teams have been dispatched to assist in the firefighting operations.

Kamran Aslam, a CDA spokesperson, confirmed that Environment Director Asif Majeed is personally overseeing the efforts on the directives of CDA Chairman Mohammad Ali Randhawa. The assistant commissioner is also present at the site, ensuring coordinated efforts between various departments.

Challenges and resources

The firefighting efforts are being hampered by high-speed winds and hot weather, which have made controlling the blaze particularly challenging. Despite these difficulties, the CDA spokesperson emphasised that all available resources are being deployed to bring the fire under control.

Frequent fire incidents

The Margalla Hills, spanning 12,605 hectares, have experienced numerous fire incidents, with 15 fires occurring just on Tuesday. These fires required nearly eight hours of intensive effort to extinguish. The recurrence of such incidents has raised suspicions of human involvement, prompting Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah to order an inquiry, the registration of a first information report (FIR), and the formation of a committee to investigate.

Investigations and preventive measures

Following the spate of fires, Islamabad Chief Commissioner Mohammad Ali Randhawa and the city’s police chief Syed Ali Nasir Rizvi have pledged to trace any possible human involvement. There are concerns that individuals aiming to create discord between the CDA and the Islamabad Wildlife Management Board might be deliberately setting these fires. The two organisations have had contentious relations in recent years, complicating management and response efforts.

Earlier this week, two fires in the hills’ Saidpur range were doused after a seven-hour operation supported by helicopters. The following day, another fire broke out in the Noorpur range, drawing attention from Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who has called for immediate action to address the situation.

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