Centre sends team to probe Uttarakhand forest fires

New Delhi: The union home ministry on Sunday sent a four-member expert team to Uttarakhand to look into the forest fires in the state and submit its report within a week after taking stock of the situation. The team comprises Santosh Kumar, executive director of the National Institute of Disaster Management; S.P. Vashist, deputy inspector general of forests under the ministry of environment and forests; K.C. Wadhwa, special director at the Centre for Fire Explosives and Environment Safety; and G.C. Mishra, director of Fire Services, Delhi. "The team will submit its report to the home ministry within one week after taking stock of situation," a ministry statement said. Assuring that the situation was under control, the statement said: "About 6,000 people from the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF), State Disaster Response Force (SDRF), state police, forest staff and volunteers are deployed there. "Three Air Force helicopters including an Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH) and two MI-17 helicopters with Bambi bucket have also been deployed to assist the local administration," the statement said. It said Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh spoke to Uttarakhand Governor K.K. Paul regarding incidents of forest fires that began 88 days ago and have so far destroyed nearly 3,000 acres of forest cover. "The Centre is providing all necessary assistance to Uttarakhand to control the forest fires and help in containing the damage," the statement said.