Smoke and ash drifted across the Model Town-GTB Nagar area near Delhi University Sunday afternoon as an open ‘grassland’ area caught fire. The cause of the fire was not clear and fire officials admitted there was little chance of knowing what triggered it.
While there was no casualty or property damage, smoke spread over a kilometre around the site of the fire, while soot and ash reached Delhi University colleges three kilometres away.
It took firemen over six hours to contain the blaze, with complaints from locals being first received at about 9.30 am. As many as 15 fire tenders were pressed into service. Firefighters spread out over 7 km around the site to contain the fire.
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Intermittent fires continued to break out in the area even after 5 pm, as fire department personnel were unable to reach the centre of the “marshland”.
“We contained the fire and stopped it from spreading outward to the residential areas. It is not possible to get to the centre of the marshland because the ground is not stable. We will have to let the fire burn out on its own,” said S S Tuli, divisional officer of fire department. With a forest area nearby, fire department personnel said they ensured the fire did not spread by “creating a perimeter”.
The land is owned by Prasar Bharti. According to the fire department, the fire was first reported on the Model Town- Police Lines side of the land, and spread rapidly towards Nirankari Colony and Coronation Park side. The land is covered in tall grass and shrubs, while there are plenty of dried leaves on the ground. Locals stepped in to help the fire department personnel, getting drinking water and refreshment for them in the searing afternoon heat.
While the area is surrounded by densely populated colonies, no casualty or property damage was reported as the fire was limited to the land classified as “marshland”, and surrounded by high walls. According to Delhi Disaster Management Authority sources, some residents complained of irritation in the eyes and breathing problems due to the smoke, but no medical emergencies were reported from the area.
District Magistrate Madhu Rani Teotia said initial reports suggested that the fire was caused due to dry grass catching fire in the summer heat. Fire department personnel at the spot, however, said the fire could have also been set off by a cigarette or match thrown through one of the several gaps in the boundary walls.
”There are often incidents of spontaneous fires in areas like these in the summer. We will not be able to pinpoint the cause due to the extent of the fire,” said Tuli.