28 January 2011

Shadow of the Smoke

I was driving back to Wangdue, and I was alone. I was in a rush to cross Dochula pass before it gets dark. But the forest fire above Changjiji football ground made me stop for a while. I have never seen a forest fire from such close range; with the Wang chhu between me and the fire, I could feel the heat wave. There were hundreds of people from my side of the river bank and there were hundreds on the fire side but only the policemen, and some people in fire fighter's suit were battling the fire. 

Kuensel Image-probably taken from my side of the river.
The smoke from the fire rose high and its shadow fell over me and soon over Thimphu but as if it wasn't our problem we just looked on. For a moment, I wished I wasn't going to Wangdue. The fire soon destroyed a hut on its way across the hill despite the effort of three fire engines. And because fire engines couldn't climb the hill, fire soon escaped their range and ran up the hill. When I was watching, the fire was still climbing the small hill and if hundred men ran up the hill the fire could have been controlled. But one man was in rush to reach Wangdue and others had their own excuses. Men engaged in fighting the fire were greatly out numbered by men watching the fire show. 

The shadow of the smoke soon fell on Changjiji football ground and I was utterly shocked to see 22 strong men running after a ball and not at all bothered by the fire which was burning just above them. It wouldn't have made a difference even if they had stopped their game for a while but it sure showed what substance they were made of. I don't know who won the game or who scored the winning goal but our country lost 250 acres of forest before they finished their match. 

How easy it is, to sit and watch, or just go on playing a football match when it is just the shadow of the smoke that falls upon us!


  1. Interesting, PaSsu. I've been a volunteer in the State Emergency Services in Australia helping out the Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade. We were only allowed to take food to the fire fighters because we weren't trained to fight the fire. Even then I was afraid - watching the fire stretching 20m or more into the air was one of the most frightening experiences of my life.

    I never saw a forest fire in Bhutan, but I helped teach the firefighters to rock climb for a few weekends. Their captain told me that they'd been trained by Australian fire fighters and that one advantage you have over us is that you always know which way the fire will go - up. Still, I think I'd be leaving it to the professionals too.

  2. Thank you MG for dropping by. Forest is our biggest assert as you know and each year fire destroys thousands of acres... and some are avoidable while some are controllable but most of times it goes as far as it wishes just because we are too careless and carefree.

  3. Here in California, fire in a natural part of the ecosystem that we've suppressed to dangerous result. The Native Californians burned the various areas (valleys, forests, mountains) every couple of years. They did this so it could increase productivity of some plants, clear out diseased wood and open the understory so there would be fewer poisonous plants and less chance of enemies sneaking up on you. Now since there are so many people we can't burn stuff, so the fires become catastrophic. Hard to find balance again...


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