Residents of Panchkula were left perplexed Wednesday after ash started falling over buildings, vehicles and open spaces in the afternoon. The incident was the result of a fire that broke out on the premises of the Terminal Ballistics Research Laboratory (TBRL) at Ramgarh, over 15 km from Panchkula.
The fire broke out around 11 am in the forested area on the premises of the TBRL, which is spread over 5,500 acres and serves as a ground for testing ballistics. The fire department took over five hours to douse the flames. Two of TBRL ‘s fire tenders and two more from the Fire Station, Panchkula, carried out the firefighting operation.
Ash was seen on roads and buildings in various residential sectors, including the corridors of the District Court Complex, and Mini-Secretariat, Sector 1, with residents of Ramgarh being the most affected. As a thin blanket of smoke enveloped the town, it sparked a series of rumours on social networking sites, with people advising each other to be cautious while going out.
“We received a call from TBRL around 1 pm, and two fire tenders were dispatched, one from Panchkula and another from Barwala. It was a massive fire,” said Fire Officer Ram Dutt Bhardwaj.
The district forest department officials said that the fire was not in the forests, but in dry tall grass, Saccliarum mimja (kanna), which covers a large part of the TBRL premises. “The grass, when burnt, shoots off ashes in air to large distances. We received calls from residents inquiring about it,” said Sunil Sharma, Forest Range Officer.
TBRL officials said that there was no damage to life and property. “It was a routine incident, as fire of such kind is often reported here, because it is a firing range, and we keep testing ballistics here. We have trained manpower to control such accidents,” a senior TBRL official told Newsline.
Another fire accident was reported around 11 am in a forested area in Peer Muchhala, where some hutments were gutted. The fire was controlled within two hours, and no casualty was reported.