Friends, allies provide Turkey air support in fight against fires

03 August 2021

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Countries maintaining close relations with Turkey lined up to offer support for deadly forest fires. So far, 18 firefighting planes and helicopters have arrived in the country from Azerbaijan, Iran, Russia, Croatia, Spain and Ukraine. “We have sufficient air power to fight the fires, but we do not turn down air support from other countries,” Mustafa Özkaya, deputy head of the Directorate of Forestry, told Anadolu Agency (AA) on Tuesday. Özkaya says they had three planes and 45 helicopters used in combatting fires but other countries poured in support, and even more planes are expected to arrive from abroad.

Iran dispatched a plane and two helicopters while Azerbaijan sent a helicopter and a unit of firefighters. Ukraine deployed three planes while Russia dispatched five planes and three helicopters to fire-hit regions.

Özkaya said that the country also received help from the European Union Civil Protection Mechanism. “This is not an aid though. Turkey pays fees to the Mechanism, to be used to support countries in need of emergency. So far, four countries offered five planes through the Mechanism. We had to turn down planes from Romania and France as they were not suitable for use in wildfires and not needed. Croatia sent a plane and Spain sent two planes,” Özkaya said. Water bomber planes and helicopters are only useful during daytime in combatting wildfires as most cannot fly at night.

Kostiantyn Kolomin was a holidaymaker in the past, in areas affected by forest fires. The Ukrainian pilot this time returned to help Turkey. Kolomyn is among a crew of 14 Ukrainians who joined the efforts to extinguish the wildfires, along with two AN-32 P airplanes Ukraine sent to Turkey. Planes deployed at Gazipaşa Airport of Antalya work in combatting fires in province’s Manavgat, Alanya, Akseki and Gündoğmuş districts. Two planes will stay in the country for another ten days. Both have four replaceable water tanks, each with a capacity of 2,000 liters of water. As of Monday, planes made 34 flights and poured 272 tons of water.

Kolomin told Anadolu Agency that he felt sorry to see his favorite holiday destination on fire. “This is a great fire. We could not sit doing nothing. Turkey is a friend of Ukraine and we are here to help people of Turkey. We are happy to join the work and try to do our best,” he said. Kolomin said land access was difficult for most fire-hit areas and air crews were playing a major role in extinguishing fires. “I hope we will save people from fires and one day, we will return to these places for holiday again,” he said. Fatih Düzgün, a Turkish pilot coordinating Ukrainian crews, said Ukraine’s aid showed that the country was “a rainy-day friend, indeed.” “We are grateful to Ukraine and its people. Turkey always supported Ukraine and now they are supporting us,” he said.

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