Big investment to prevent forest fires

     Big investment to prevent forest fires

31 May 2008

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 Turkey — The Forestry Directorate made a recent investment of YTL 110 million to fight forest fires and has installed smoke-sensitive cameras and radars in certain critical regions, in response to a serious problem faced by the country’s heavily forested regions over the summer months.

No matter what technology we use at whatever level, forest fires are an inevitable problem in heavily forested countries like Turkey. That’s why we have made a YTL 110 million investment to fight forest fires, said Forestry Director Osman Kahveci. The important thing is the timing of extinguishing attempts, he added.

The Forestry Directorate has increased the size of the arsenal of technical equipment it needs to suppress fires from the air. We currently have 18 helicopters, 12 of which are rented, and six fire-extinguishing aircrafts, said Kahveci.

Kahveci, who attended a recent two-day conference held in Turkey’s Mediterranean province of Adana on the harms caused by Anatolian black goats to forests, said forest fires are not only a problem in Turkey but in most Mediterranean countries, especially during the summer months.

More than 250,000 hectares of forests burned down and 67 people died in forest fires that erupted in Greece last year. Unfortunately, 90 percent of forest fires are caused by people’s indifferent and careless behavior, he said. The priority of the Forestry Directorate is to help create wider social awareness about forest fires in Turkey, he added.

Other than natural causes, most forest fires in Turkey are caused, or at least exacerbated, by cigarette stubs, campfires, and the burning of stubble, all of which are caused by a lack of social awareness of the effects of these behaviors.

Monitoring with smoke sensitive cameras

Forest fires should be suppressed as expediently as possible, said Kahveci, warning that delays in extinguishing fires, especially those that have already spread, brings about the highest level of damage to forests. Thanks to the surveillance cameras we have installed at 750 different spots, we now monitor forested areas 24 hours a day, he said.

Fire extinguishing techniques used by the Forestry Directorate are on par with standards used around the world. In addition, small towers and radars make the directorate better able to report fires to extinguishing teams and aircraft, creating a quick suppression of fledgling blazes. Our main goal is to reach the fire within 10 or 15 minutes at most, said Kahveci. We also have teams staying in caravans in critical forest areas for 24 hours and performing control tours in the forest, he said.

When a forest fire report reaches the forestry department, helicopters normally leave for the area where the fire erupts in less than seven minutes. If they delay, then pilots have to pay cash fines as steep as $10,000. Thanks to cameras and satellite surveillance systems, we can ‘remote control’ forest fires from a computer, said Kahveci, adding that smoke-sensitive cameras placed in forests also set off an alarm the moment a fire erupts.

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