A residential school in Kasauli and the 113-year-old Kalka-Shimla Mountain Railway were affected by the forest fires that continue to rage in Himachal Pradesh and have destroyed huge forest wealth.
As many as 519 small and big fires were sweeping through the forests, according to Forest Minister Thakur Singh Bharmauri, even though he said the situation was not alarming as in neighbouring Uttarakhand. The fire began from the ITI campus at the district headquarters of Sirmaur at Nahan and — due to unusually high temperatures and lack of rains — rapidly spread to a radius of over 5 km, bringing in its grip large tracts of forest land in Shimla and Solan districts as well.
Locals at Nahan insisted that they found no evidence yet of the government being engaged in fighting the fire, and feared that it may engulf their homes and cowsheds if action was not taken.
In Solan district, flames raging through pine and oak forests reached the Pine Grove School in Kasauli, where students were evacuated and the fire was put out after an hour. Similarly, fire was put out at Lawrence School before it could cause any damage. Also in Solan, a section of the Kalka-Shimla Mountain Railway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was partially damaged in the surging fire — leading to the suspension of service twice since Sunday before it was restored on Monday evening, according to railway traffic inspector Surendra Parmar.
Himachal Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh told reporters that forest fires were not a new phenomenon and that he had been watching them break out since his childhood.
A section of Kalka-Shimla Mountain Railway, a World Heritage Site, was partially damaged