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Firefighters mop up following the three-day forest fire in Tango that was brought under control yesterday

Firefighters save Tango Monastery

Fire: After battling it for more than three days, around 300 firefighters including members of the armed forces, DeSuups, foresters, civil servants, monks, villagers and other volunteers managed to control the blaze near Tango monastery yesterday.

The fire which burnt along a small gorge on the right side of the monastery had almost reached the mountain top, close to Dzongkha temple.

Thimphu division’s chief forestry officer Gyeltshen Drukpa said the government’s helicopter helped in controlling the fire.

The greatest worry of the firefighters and forestry officials was of the fire spreading towards Tango monastery. The fire did raze three tshamkhangs or houses for hermits. In total, about 30 acres of forest was razed during the three days of the fire.

One of the tshamkhangs that was razed

The wind blowing northward from Thimphu valley fanned the fire. If the fire had burned more than a hundred metres to the left, the monastery would have been in danger of catching fire.

Over 100 villagers from Kawang gewog, rushed to the site to fight the fire.

Dechen Wangchuk, 70, from Kabisa who was involved in fighting the fire for all three days said that leaf cover on the ground aided the fire to grow quickly and spread.

“I think the leaf cover on the ground is also responsible for re igniting the fire because we had to continuously put it out for the past two days,” he said yesterday.

The fire that started on February 13 reignited repeatedly in the following two days and grew out of control.

Tashi Chozom, another village volunteer from Kabisa, said that they created fire lines to stop the fire from spreading towards Tango Monastery.

“We used all sorts of tools from sharpened tree branches to spades and knives to dig following the instructions of forest officials but it was not easy,” she said. Volunteers began fire fighting efforts at 7am yesterday. The gewog provided free transport and noodles for meals. At the end of the day, fire fighters were fed by the monks of the monastery.

Except for those who could not walk, most from nearby villages turned out in hordes to battle the blaze, Gyeltshen Drukpa said. Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay also visited the site of the fire.

“The community has to come to help in such circumstances because it’s our forests and moreover, whoever doesn’t will be penalised through fines and other forms,” another villager, Kinley Wangmo said.

“We hope the fire will not reignite again and that someone would do some magic and bring the rains.”

Tango Monastery is located 14 kilometres to the north of Thimphu. It was founded by Phajo Drugom Zhigpo in the 13th century and built in its present form by Tenzin Rabgye, the 4th Desi in 1688. In 1616, Zhabdrung Ngawang Namgyel meditated in its cave. The self-emanated form of the wrathful Hayagriva is deified in the monastery.

Tshering Palden

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