ground fire of an unusual kind burnt to ashes full grown grass and small plants in over 1,000 hectares (ha) of the 20,000-ha Gautala Wildlife Sanctuary in Aurangabad's Kannad tehsil of Maharashtra. The fire ravaged the park for two days before it was brought under control. However, no loss of human or animal life was reported.
According to deputy conservator of forest (wildlife), Arvind Apte, a preliminary survey showed that 1,000 ha of the forest had been engulfed by the fire in the areas adjacent to Tapovan, Hiwarkheda and Garada villages. Forest officials say wildlife has been spared mainly because the animals move to watering holes and other cool places. They added that the wide road that divided the sanctuary also helped contain the blaze.
Forest officials say there is reason to believe that the fire was sparked by natural causes. The blaze spread rapidly owing to the thick carpet of full grown, dry grass in the sanctuary. Fallen teak leaves fuelled the flames. Further, the wind blowing across the hillocks helped spread the fire, said Apte.
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