Dehradun/New Delhi: Forest fires raging through large parts of Uttarakhand began showing signs of abating as two IAF choppers and over 10,000 personnel continued firefighting operations for the second day on Monday.
The number of active fires dropped sharply to 40 in the hill state and the Centre claimed the situation was "under control".
Three persons were arrested from Pithoragarh and Nainital for burning dry leaves of Cheed and stoking the fires.
"There are only 40 active fires in the state today in comparison to yesterday's 73 which is an encouraging sign. It shows the situation is gradually getting under control.
"Today there were 271 incidents of forest fires in the state out of which 232 have been extinguished, " Additional Chief Secretary (Forest) S Ramaswamy said.
Two IAF helicopters made nine sorties from Nainital and Pauri and poured water out of Bamdi buckets over the flaming forests as 10,000 personnel fought numerous infernos on the ground.
Governor KK Paul, who is closely monitoring the situation, spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister of Forest and Environment Prakash Javadekar and briefed them about the situation prevailing in the state where forests in 3185.45 hectares have been blighted since February 2.
According to Raj Bhawan sources, the Prime Minister asked the Governor to keep the Centre posted about the steps being taken to put out forest fires and assured him of all help from the Centre to overcome the situation.
President Pranab Mukherjee also shared his concern with the Governor and expressed his condolences to families which had lost their kin in forest fire incidents. Around 5-6 people were reportedly killed in such incidents over the past few days.
In Delhi, Union Minister of State for Home Kirren Rijiju said the fires have been largely contained.
"As per the latest information, fire has been contained. Situation is under control now," Rijiju told reporters.
A four-member Central team of experts, including Special Director Centre for Fire Explosives K C Wadha and director of Delhi Fire Services G C Misra have reached Uttarakhand to assess the situation and suggest possible remedies.
Rijiju said, if required, the Centre would send additional personnel to assist the state.
"Kumaon is very much under control now with two MI 17 choppers conducting several sorties over affected areas to sprinkle water. We have to concentrate now with greater focus on Garhwal," Principal Conservator of Forest B P Gupta, who is the nodal officer for firefighting operations for both regions said.
Fresh fire incidents will continue to occur till there is a drop in day temperatures but the heartening factor is that we are now equipped to control the situation with MI17 choppers and 10,000 personnel of the NDRF, SDRF, Forest Guards, Homeguards and locals involved in the firefighting exrcise," Gupta said.
Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand High Court has issued notice to the Union Ministry of Forest and Environment seeking a detailed report from it on the extent of damage caused by forest fires in the state so far and the steps taken to control the blaze.