Thiruvananthapuram: Forest Minister A K Saseendran on Sunday said he suspected foul play in the forest fires occurring in various districts of the state.
"Despite taking necessary precautionary measures, the forests are catching fire in an unprecedented manner. An inspection conducted by forest guards also revealed similar findings," said Saseendran.
He further said stern action would be taken against the culprits.
Amid growing mercury levels, the state has seen 420 hectares of forest land being burnt away so far. Of those, Palakkad has suffered the most damage (160 hectares), followed by Wayanad (90 hectares), Idukki (86 hectares) and Thiruvananthapuram (70 hectares).
There are suspicions as to how the fire spread across large areas despite the forest fire line being in place.
A forest fire line is used to prevent fire from breaking into the forest from one compartment to another.
According to Saseendran, the forest guards, in their inspection, have found evidence that points towards foul play.
In Palakkad, forest areas in Silent Valley, Attappadi and Malampuzha caught fire.
Though forest department officials informed the fire has been brought under control in most places, efforts to douse the flames are proving to be futile in a few areas owing to strong winds.
The department estimates the scale of the loss incurred to go even higher once the number of private plantations that caught fire comes out.