The world’s largest pine nut (Chilghoza) forest, Shirani Forest in Koh-e-Sulaiman range, Balochistan, caught fire in May 2022. The wildfire damaged around 25-35 kilometers of radius. Unfortunately, three people were burnt to death while putting out the fire. The Shirani Forest lies at the conjecture of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP). Initial reports suggested that the fire started in the KP area of the forest, however, due to strong winds, the course was diverted towards Balochistan.
Shirani pine nut forest is spread around 26,000 hectares while producing almost 460,000 kilograms of Chilghoza annually. The raging fire in Shirani Forest killed the most ancient pine trees according to Ateeq Kakar, an official of the Forest and Wildlife Department. The 1000 years old pine nut trees have been lost and it is worth mentioning here that it takes almost 25 years for a tree to produce pine nuts.
There are two main tribes that reside near the Shirani Forest, namely Shirani Pakhtuns and Harifal. Pine nuts are the biggest source of income for the Shirani Pakhtuns. The wildfire has struck the major livelihood source of the tribe as well.
Pakistan Army in aid to the civil administration extended its help to douse the fire. A Frontier Corps (FC) Wing and army helicopters were involved in the fire extinguishing efforts. One helicopter was used to throw water while the other two were used to throw fireball extinguishers and chemicals. Around 400 fireballs along with 200 fire suits and blankets and other fire extinguishing equipment was provided by National Disaster Management Authority through FC Balochistan.
Local residents and residents of the nearby villages were relocated to safer areas. The wildlife within the forest is also under grave threat, with many thought to be victims of this wildfire. According to a forest officer, “The damage to the forest and number of the trees burnt will be determined through a survey once the fire has been extinguished”.
To support the firefighting efforts, Iran has also provided its firefighting aircraft to Pakistan. The firefighting aircraft, Ilyushin 76, is the world’s largest firefighting aircraft. According to a spokesperson of Iranian consulate in Quetta, the firefighting aircraft would remain in Pakistan until the wildfire is extinguished. The Iranian firefighting aircraft arrived at the Nur Khan airbase on May 23, 2022.
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