A major fire broke out in Agra’s Soor Sarovar Wildlife Sanctuary Friday night, killing at least three snakes. While forest officials claimed that there was no other damage to animal life, sources said the extent of the damage was yet to be ascertained.
Officials said the fire was caused by a spark in an overhead power cable that passes through the forest to provide electricity to nearby villages.
“This was the third fire incident in the last 30 days and all three instances were due to the spark. We were able to contain the fire twice, but the last fire spread quickly. Next morning we were informed that an adult python had been burnt,” said Range officer Awadh Bihari.
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He said it was around 8.45 pm Friday when he was told by a forest guard about a fire near the sanctuary’s Keetham Lake. Fire department officials arrived at 10.30 pm, Bihari added.
Fire officials said that three fire tenders were rushed immediately but got caught in traffic. One fire tender with water capacity of 800 litres was unable to go near the spot due to the narrow road.
Despite the forest department’s claims, two more snakes were were found charred Sunday when The Indian Express visited the sanctuary. Burnt remains of another animal were also found in the grass. However, officials claimed that the carcass was lying there before the fire.
Later, officials said they are ascertaining the extent of damage. Deputy Conservator of Forest, Anil Patel of the Chambal Range, said that the major reason for the fire was the overhead power cable.
“We have communicated our concerns to the government. Also, the electricity department had not conducted their routine checks this year,” he said.
Asked about animal deaths, Patel added: “Only one one python has been found dead. There has been damage to the flora and fauna , but there has been no news of more animal deaths.”
The 800-hectare sanctuary has only nine officials, including a range officer, to patrol the entire area.
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