The Firefighting operation at Tirumala hills was successfully completed by the Indian Air Force on Friday. The operation which had been going on for the last two days was called off at 3 pm.
On March 19 HQ Training Command, IAF in Bangalore had received a request for assistance from Andhra Pradesh Government to control the forest fire in Tirupathi area, which was spreading rapidly towards the Tirumala shrine. The IAF quickly swung into action and responded to the request in a prompt manner. One helicopter was immediately launched to survey the extent of fire and to scout for nearby water bodies.
The forest area where the fire was raging was inaccessible and hilly. Based on the inputs received from helicopter survey, the latest aircraft on the inventory of IAF, the C-130J and Mi-17 V5 Helicopters were put to task. Mi-17 V5 Helicopters with Bambi Bucket (equipment used for carrying water from a water body and spraying it over the fire) flew throughout the night from various units in North India and positioned at Hakimpet.
One C-130 Hercules with Task Force Commander carried out the reconnaissance of the fire affected area around Tirupathi on March 19. Wg Cdr AS Parandekar (Task Force Commander for the Operation), along with the crew members planned the exercise after completing the reconnaissance.
On March 20, two Mi 17 V5 helicopters started the firefighting operation from Tirupathi Air field. They used Bambi Bucket equipment to airlift water from a nearby dam and sprayed it on the fire which was raging in the hills around. Helicopters flew throughout the day and 20 sorties were flown.
About 32,000 liters of water was sprayed to douse the fire and this herculean effort was instrumental in stopping the fire from spreading towards temple area. Firefighting operations were continued on till Friday afternoon wherein 18 more sorties were flown.
A similar operation was carried out in North East of the country recently where the helicopters were used to douse forest fire using the Bambi Bucket. The Bambi Bucket has a capacity to hold around 4000 liters of water which can be transported under slung from a helicopter.
The fire was completely extinguished due to the relentless efforts of the IAF thus saving the forest, precious lives and damage to the holy shrine. Later in the afternoon, one sortie was flown to reconfirm that the fire was completely extinguished.