After a long not very satisfying shoot (the highlight was a Hoopoe sighting) at the airfield, a group of kids ran out of the close-by colony asking to see the snake I was carrying. I wasn't, off course, and told them so. They carried on then with their games, whizzing around the airfield on little bikes. As I got ready to leave, some them started yelling 'fire, fire' and indeed there was one. Someone had carelessly thrown a cigarette. They put out this fire, along with the sole security guard there, using leafy branches, a little piss, water and their little feet. Just as they put one out another smaller one broke out, and threatened to be worse than the first. It was put out post haste.
They told me of a huge fire that had raged here some years ago threatening their houses. Their methods of fire control had proved ineffective and eventually fire engines had been called in. This is the second very large fire thats happened here (that I know of) in the last couple of years. There are always a few small ones, quickly put out by security guards or someone nearby. I helped put out the one in the second picture along with 10-15 guards. Its a scary experience, little ones start from nowhere just under your feet. The smoke is suffocating and your face and eyebrows get singed.
Fire is probably a part of the local ecology and there might be some seeds that need it to germinate. This grassland is a tinderbox in the dry season, waiting for the smallest spark. In the long run, it's going to be a serious hazard. Many of the new buildings that IISc is planning are going to be built around this area. I can just imagine the damage if a serious fire takes root. A glass bottle thrown carelessly concentrating the suns energy on dry fuel, a cigarette carelessly chucked into dry grass. We are so used to doing it in these parts of campus, I can't expect people in IISc will suddenly become careful when they get there. I hope there will be fire management systems in place when they do move. And walls, to keep the fools and their wastes in, and away from the airfield. At least, a designated smoking area (people will smoke, theres no way around it), with those huge ashtrays that used to be seen in old cinemas. And a waste disposal plan that doesn't involve chucking chemical bottles over the wall/fence. And off course plenty of hoses and fire fighting equipment and sprinklers...
Off course, the way IISc deals with trouble usually is to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I expect that the whole area will be bull-dozed and shorn to nothing (after the first fire, never before) and we will have lost a unique little ecological system. Or maybe not, maybe someone will think of it, maybe safeguards will be designed? And people will be able to peer out of their high windows over rolling grasslands and hear sweet sweet sweet.
(9th Feb '07: This post has nothing to do with the fire that occurred at MCBL last night. The two places are quite far apart.)