The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Monday joined a fire fighting operation to control a massive forest fire in Ghordi block in Udhampur district of Jammu and Kashmir, officials said.
The fire in Daya Dhar forest started on Sunday and engulfed a vast area, damaging hundreds of trees, the officials said.
The forest protection force, along with fire department and emergency services personnel, police and civilian volunteers from nearby villages are making efforts to put off the blaze in the forest, home to various species of the wild animals and birds.
The IAF deployed its choppers with a bucket carrying thousands of litres of water early Monday morning to help douse the fire, responding to the call of Udhampur Deputy Commissioner Indu Kanwal Chib.
The officials said the cause of the fire was not known immediately but it is believed that the blaze started after the dry grass caught fire due to rising mercury.
"The exact damage caused to the green gold and the wildlife would be known only after the fire is controlled completely,” a forest official said.
District Development Council (DDC) member, Ghordi, Rakesh Chander Sharma said 80 per cent of the fire was controlled and joint efforts are on to douse the flames.
"The fire has engulfed a vast forest area and the damage to wildlife is enormous. We have an endangered species of peacocks and other wild animals including leopards, deer, bears and wild pigs," Sharma, a BJP leader, said.
He said an IAF chopper joined the fire fighting operation around 7 am and had made many sorties to douse the fire.
Sharma said the fire threatened several villages, including Gorla, Jilad and Kasoori, but hailed the local volunteers who started the fire fighting operation soon after the blaze was noticed in the forest.