Turkey — Forest fire that erupted on July 31 and that devastated an area of 4,000 hectares in Antalya province was the second largest forest fire since the foundation of Turkish republic, says a report by the Union of Forest Engineers. The report also says the total devastated area was 16, 925 hectares
Debates continue over possible reasons for a four-day-long forest fire that erupted July 31 and devastated over 4,000 hectares in the southern province of Antalya.
The Union of Forest Engineers released a report, in which they argued inadequate intervention and bad management were two main causes of the fire and that the total devastated area was inaccurately announced to the public. The report said the fire actually incinerated a 16,925-hectare area (as large as 34,000 football fields).
The fire took place in the Serik and Taşağıl regions, which are under official control of Antalya’s Forest Directorate, between July 31 and Aug. 4.
“The fire that devastated forests in Serik and Taşağıl regions is the second-largest fire in the history of Turkish Republic. About 13,018 hectares of fertile forest area and 3,907 hectares of infertile forest area have been devastated. Therefore, the fire has devastated a total of 16,925-hectares of forest area,” said the report by forest engineers.
“Predictably, 1,674,000 cubic meters of planted trees were burned down,” it noted.
On the second day of the fire, different TV channels announced the size of devastated area as 10,000 hectares. But according to all subsequent reports, the total loss was 4,000 hectares.
The largest forest fire in modern day Turkey occurred in the resort town of Marmaris in 1979 and resulted in devastation of a 13,260-hectare forest area.
According to the report, any country located in the Mediterranean basin has potential to lose between 6,000 to 8,000 hectares to forest fires. The report noted a number of observations, criticisms and suggestions:
The fire extinguishing team that performed the first attempt to extinguish the fire was not accompanied by a sufficient number of staff. The supplementary team was not transferred in time. Efforts to extinguish the fire were not sufficient and effective. No precautions were taken on the area located between the stubble-covered agricultural land where the fire erupted and the forest area, which easily paved the way for the fire to spread across the forest area.
Land teams were small. Members were over a certain age and, therefore, slow and inadequate in performance.
Serious problems occurred in management of the fire. It is evident that “Yangın Amirliği,” the official body responsible for fires, was rendered ineffective during the fire.
The size of the devastated area was not reflected accurately to the public. During the fire and after it authorities from the directorate announced between 4,000 and 5,000 hectares were devastated, but simultaneous satellite images of the area show that the size of the devastated area was bigger than was announced.
Reform is necessary in the way the Forest General Directorate is organized in terms of fire prevention and extinguishment.
Fire safety areas should be formed in forest areas that are highly susceptible to fires.
Union of Forest Engineers, Forest General Directorate and Education Ministry should collaborate in training fire extinguishing teams.