Minister blames municipalities for insufficient response to forest fires

02 August 2021

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TURKEY – Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Bekir Pakdemirli has said that the ministry’s forest fire organization was hindered by municipalities not performing their firefighting duties.

Responding to criticisms over insufficient response to the fires, Pakdemirli told reporters yesterday (August 1) that the municipalities are responsible for residential areas.

But, according to the minister, because the municipalities do not adequately perform their duties, the ministry teams have to both evacuate people in residential areas and respond to the fires.

“What I see in the five-day toll is that the forestry organization had to allow the forests to burn because it had to protect residential areas,” said Pakdemirli.

The ministry’s forest organization is responsible for performing every kind of service to prevent and extinguish forest fires, according to article 69 of the Forestry Law.

The municipalities of the hardest-hit cities from the fires are led by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).

At least eight people, including two firefighters, have been killed in the massive wildfires since July 28.

About the criticism over the lack of firefighting planes, Pakdemirli said, “I hear reproaches from our citizens about the planes and helicopters. Our efforts are continuing with four planes, one UAV, 17 helicopters, 93 firefighting vehicles, 55 ambulances and 1,457 personnel.

“Our citizens may not see these vehicles in the sky as much as they wanted but as I said, we are working with four planes and 17 helicopters. Six neighborhoods have been evacuated.”

The government has faced heavy criticism over the lack of firefighting planes as it has surfaced after the recent fires that it doesn’t have a single one in its inventory. Planes have been leased from Russia, Azerbaijan and other countries.

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