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  • Picture: A fire that broke out in forests near Rudraprayag of Uttarakhand on April 30, 2016.IANS
  • Picture: An aerial view of Uttarakhand forest fire.IANS

UPDATE: 3:58 p.m. IST — The wildfire on Monday spread to the Thanpal forest area in Reasi district of Jammu & Kashmir, Asian News International reported.

UPDATE: 11:57 a.m. IST — At least four people were on Monday arrested in connection with the forest fire in Uttarakhand, Asian News International quoted Union Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar as saying.

Original Story —

At least 10,000 people will be sent to douse the flames in the burning forests of Uttarakhand in the next three to four days, Union Minister of State for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Prakash Javadekar reportedly said on Monday.

National Disaster Relief Force, State Disaster Relief Force, Uttarakhand police, forest department and volunteers' groups were working in the affected areas. More than 6,000 people were deployed on Sunday to put out the fire that has engulfed vast tracts of the forests. About 1,082 incidents of fire since last week have destroyed about 2,269 hectares of forest lands and killed at least seven people as of Sunday, according to reports.

Two Indian Air Force Mi-17 choppers also sprinkled water on the burning forests of Nainital and Pauri on Sunday, but smoke and fog affected the operation. The helicopters were sent again on Monday to douse the fire in Nainital, Asian News International reported.

"More than 6,000 employees are already on the job, while DG (Forest) is leading and coordinating the operation from the front for the past two days? The Prime Minister's Office (PMO), National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), and Indian Air Force are working in tandem, and I am sure that the fire will be put out in three-four days," Hindustan Times quoted Javadekar as saying.

Javadekar said extremely dry weather without humidity caused the wildfire.

Six districts— Rudraprayag, Pauri, Chamoli, Almora, Nainital and Dehradun — have been the worst affected regions in the state, the Times of India reported. Forests in Pauri's Khirsu, Pokhri and Yamkeshwar, Chamoli's Karnprayag, Tharali and Dasholi, Almora's Binsar and Dholadevi, and Dehradun's Chakrata and Lakhwar areas are still burning.

The loss caused by the fire has been estimated to be Rs. 22 lakh, the Hindu reported. The wildfire has also affected the wildlife as it has burnt down several nests. "This is the breeding season for local birds who migrate from the Terai region. Their eggs and nests are getting burnt in the fire," wildlife photographer Anup Sah told the Hindu.

The Cheer Pheasant that has been declared "vulnerable" also faces threat. "Grassy slopes are the habitats for the Cheer Pheasant. However, with the slopes on fire, the vulnerable bird is under threat," Sah said.

Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Shatrughna Singh has said the situation improved on Sunday. The number of fire incidents came down to 112 on Sunday as compared to 477 on Friday.