Lebanon — As preparations for theolive harvest begin across Lebanon, the Association for Forest Development and Conservation (AFDC), a fire-prevention and awareness group, urged farmers and others on Monday not to use fire for land-clearance purposes.
According to an AFDC press release, most farmers regard “land-clearing burning,” or the burning of outdoor flora, as the quickest, easiest and most effective way to remove weeds and other undesirable plants from around their olive trees. The group warned, however, that Lebanon’s most dangerous fires typically occur between the months of July and November, and that 90 percent of those begin on agricultural land. During those months, humidity, hot weather and wind greatly exacerbate fires.
Urging farmers and land owners not to use fire to clear their land and fields, the AFDC suggested they pick weeds by hand instead and store them for indoor fires in winter. If fire must be used to clear land, said the statement, people should isolate them from surrounding woodland and ensure there is a water supply ready should the fire spread or get out of control. In such cases, the nearest Civil Defense center should also be called in to fight the blaze, read the AFDC statement.
The group furthermore urged farmers and other Lebanese to ensure that all flames have been extinguished before leaving their land.
It added that Lebanese law forbids such fires to be set between June and November, and that if people insisted on land-clearing burning, the best time to do so was during the spring or winter seasons, when the risk of major fires was reduced.
“Last but not least, the AFDC encourages Lebanese civilians to participate and facilitate the mission of the Civil Defense in the case of a fire,” said the statement.
Forest fires often break out during Lebanon’s summer months. The country loses an average of 1,200 hectares of forest in fires annually, the AFDC estimated. Last summer, 4,700 hectares were destroyed, resulting in millions of dollars of losses.