Tirumala Forest Fire threatens safety of Tirupati Balaji Temple

Tirupati: A massive fire in Seshachalam forests that broke out Tuesday was still raging Wednesday, threatening the famous Balaji temple atop the Tirumala Hills, officials said.

Officials of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which manages the affairs of the temple, said they were trying to deploy helicopters to control the fire which has already destroyed forests spread over thousands of hectares.

As thick smoke enveloped the hills, shops around the temple were shut and the pathway to the temple for devotees was closed.

TTD officials said they were taking all steps for the safety of devotees. As a precautionary measure, the pedestrian pathway from Alipiri was closed down.

TTD executive officer M.G. Gopal said the fire at Kakula Konda had not yet come under control. Personnel from fire services, forest, police and various wings of the TTD were trying to control the fire that broke out near the sandalwood plantation, about three km from the temple.

TTD joint executive officer K. Srinivasa Raju told reporters at Tirumala that they were holding talks with forest officials to deploy helicopters for firefighting operations. He said they would also seek the help of Indian Navy for the choppers.

TTD officials were in touch with the chief secretary and officials in disaster management and fire service departments.

The fire has also threatened a wind power plant located in the forest.