IAF lends helping hand to douse fires in J-K, Punjab
Jammu, May 30: The Indian Air Force (IAF) has carried out twin “bambi bucket” operations in Mata Vaishnodevi hills in Jammu and Kashmir and Pathankot hills of Punjab to douse major fires, an official said today.
“A major forest fire broke out in the hills of Mata Vaishnodevi shrine (in Katra in Reasi district) from May 23, which halted the yatra. More than 20,000 pilgrims were stuck at various places along the track due to major fire”, Defence Spokesman Col N N Joshi said.
Air Force Station Udhampur was requested by the civil administration to contain the situation and secure life and property, he said adding that helicopters based at Air Force Station Udhampur were immediately pressed into action.
“The helicopters were equipped with under slung water buckets which can carry water up to 4,500 litres. In aviation terminology, these are known as bambi buckets”, he said.
A bambi bucket is essentially a collapsible bucket utilizing a pilot control valve that can deliver a concentrated column of water from the helicopter to the fire, he added.
The development of bambi bucket has been a breakthrough development after feedback from helicopter operators and forest and land management agencies.
The spokesman said that two helicopters were immediately launched for humanitarian operations at shrine hill and helicopters collected the water from Chenab river near Reasi and precise drop was carried at new track between Ardh Kunwari & Bhavan.
It was a daunting task keeping in mind the high ridges of Trikuta hill, high tension cables and challenging terrains, he said.
The operations at Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine was started on May 23 and continued till May 27.
On May 28, another fire engulfed the Garh Mata Mandir in Pathankot in Punjab, posing a major threat to life of pilgrims and nearby habitants, the spokesman said.
On request of the district administration Pathankot, Air Force Station Udhampur responded and launched another helicopter operation equipped with Bambi bucket, the spokesman said.
As there were no standard helipads near the water body, the helicopter had to operate from remote location near Ranjit Sagar of Thein dam. The continuous operations by helicopter crews resulted in controlling of forest fire at the pilgrimage, he added.
The operations towards containing fire at Garh Mata Mandir started on May 27 and was completed by May 28.
A total of 10 sorties were flown towards containing the fire, he added.
“Such operations are high risk operations considering challenging terrains, steep ridges, obstruction posed by high tension cables, poor visibility due to excessive smoke and turbulence”, he said.
The spokesman said that effective co-ordination between Air Force Station Udhampur and civil administration both at Katra and Pathankot led to swift response from the Indian Air Force towards containment of fire within a short time.