Shimla, May 31 (PTI) Indian Air Force choppers would be used to douse forest fires in the worst-affected Hamirpur, Chamba and Kangra districts in Himachal Pradesh, state Forest Minister Govind Singh Thakur said here today.

The minister said 1,544 cases of forest fires had been reported so far and the estimated loss was Rs 1.16 crore.

Major fires had also broken out in Baddi in Solan district, Bhattiyat in Chamba district and Theog in Shimla district in the past 48 hours, he said.

The fires had engulfed large areas of the state and claimed four lives so far, including Deputy Ranger Ashok Kumar, and six people were injured in firefighting operations, he said.

The IAF has agreed to provide helicopters for dousing forest fires from today in the worst-affected Hamirpur, Chamba and Kangra districts,” he told reporters here.

Choppers would be useful and effective in areas where fire tenders cannot reach. Three helicopters would lift water from Gobind Sagar, Pong Dam and Kol Dam reservoirs, he added He said while the deputy ranger died in a forest fire in Chamba, Moju Devi died in Sunni, Satvinder in Jaswan and Chandel Singh in Sarahan.

The government considered the deceased to be “martyrs” and their kin would be given compensation of Rs 4 lakh each besides Rs 1 lakh by the Forest Department, Thakur said.

He said that 95 per cent of fires are deliberate and cautioned the people against it.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.