Measures for forest fires taken beforehand

Measures for forest fires taken beforehand

11 May 2009

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Turkey —

Fires in Turkey destroyed thousands of hectares of forests, but the Directorate of Forestry in various cities has already taken measures to stop fires. Authorities agree that forest fires occur by natural circumstances, negligence or deliberation and the necessary precautions should be taken

Turkey’s climate conditions and vegetation compositions put it squarely in the forest fire belt. Even though hectares of land burn up every summer because of human error or natural circumstance, have the necessary precautions been taken for this summer?

According to a report from the Chamber of Forest Engineers, the forest fire inAntalya’s Serik and Taşağõl districts in the summer of 2008, second biggest forest fire in Turkey’s history, resulted in the destruction of a total of 16,925 hectares forest area, 13,018 of which was fertile farmland. The authorities put forward a number of reasons for the uncontrollable spread of fire within six days. The reasons included the lack of forest roads and control paths, a harsh northerly wind, an inadequate number of response teams and equipment, and slow bureaucratic procedures.

The report said the cities most sensitive to the forest fires in Turkey includeAntalya, Muğla,İzmir, Adana, Mersin and Çanakkale, which have a total of 5.5 million hectares of pine trees and scrub.

“Firstly we should accept that we live in the forest fire belt and that forest fires are inevitable during the summer months in our country,” Ali Küçükaydõn, chairman of the Chamber of Forest Engineers, told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review.

’Turkish fire teams are quite experienced’

“This brings out the fact that all the necessary precautions must be taken well before the summer months in order to minimize the number, or at least the effects, of the possible forest fires,” said Küçükaydõn, adding that the Turkish fire teams are quite experienced in controlling both middle- and large-scale fires.

Küçükaydõn also highlighted the major problem faced by all management levels is the organization, or becoming organized in the event of a fire. Especially, the teams sent in from other cities have difficulty in coordinating with local teams that know the region better and thus can manage the crisis more efficiently, he said.

“Another problem is the aging fire teams. Most of the members have been working for the organization for years. Sometimes they may lack energy in order to intervene in the fires in time. Employing young teams might be a solution for that,” Küçükaydõn further said.

İbrahim Aydõn, regional manager of Muğla Directorate of Forestry, however, said the old teams mean experience, which is of great importance when fighting a fire. “Sometimes, the regional directorate of forestry can conflict with the Chamber of Forest Engineers. However, we should work together for the future of this country.”

Recalling that forest fires are a battle, especially in our region, Aydõn said he believed they had organized well to win this battle with their fire teams of 1,800 members, two airplanes, four helicopters, 103 water pumpers and 57 observation towers.

“We have completed renting procedures for two helicopters and two airplanes to be used in extinguishing fires before the fire season starts,” Recep Kaşan, regional manager ofAntalya Directorate of Forestry, told the Daily News.

“Our teams have already started the hay cleaning works along the roads. The next step is to complete the construction works of the defective roads, which are of major importance in case of a fire”, said Kaşan, adding that they work in coordination with the Special Provincial Administration, General Directorate of Highways and Governor Generalship to meet their requirements of firefighting equipment.

Similar to theAntalya Regional Directorate of Forestry, Muğla Regional Directorate of Forestry has also taken the necessary precautions.

’People need education and firefighting equipment’

“There are two sides to the prevention of forest fires. One is the education side, and the other is the firefighting equipment. We have been educating village people and students alongside our fire teams,” said Aydõn, adding that they also work in coordination with the nearby directorates to meet their fire equipment needs.

New water pools have also been constructed both inAntalya and in the Muğla regions in order to reinforce the pumpers during the fires. Both Kaşan and Aydõn agree that the maintenance work for the high-voltage lines is still ongoing.

“Forest fires are the reality of this region. As long as the human factor exists, forest fires are inevitable. The point is to come through the fires with the least possible damage both for the nature and for the people. This can only be possible with the necessary precautions taken in time,” said Kaşan.

Aydõn said the heavy rains have given rise to substantial haystacks along the roads. These can pose a serious threat to the forest. “Our teams have already started cleaning works along these roads. However, we also ask for great care from the citizens,” Aydõn said.Ê

The Forest Fires Meeting was held inAntalya, one of the regions facing the danger of forest fires every year.

“The forest fires occur for different reasons; natural circumstances like lighting by 7 percent, negligence by 33 percent, deliberation by 52 percent and unknown reasons by 8 percent,” saidAntalya Governor Alaaddin Yüksel at the meeting.

Saying that the southern city ofAntalya faces the danger of more than 200 forest fires every year, Yüksel said everybody should take responsibility to fight the forest fires for the future of the city.

“Unless the necessary precautions are taken beforehand, not only the forests but also humans will be in serious danger. The world countries should act in coordination within the common struggle to minimize the forest fires.Antalya should be the center of this coordination because the fire teams inAntalya are the most experienced team in fighting with the fires in the world”, he said.

According to the decision accepted at the meeting, it is forbidden to enter some 27 forest areas between May 1 and Nov 30. These areas include Kemer, Düzlerçamõ-Asar, Güzeloba, Gebiz, Karabük-Akbaş, Ikizpõnar, Manavgat, Gülen, Sazlõçeşme, Çürük, Güzelbaş, Kargõ, Dim, Demirtaş, Gazipaşa, Kumluca, Finike, Sualdõğõ, Aykõrõçay, Lengüme, Karpõz, Giden Gelmez, Alanya, Alara Forests and Düzlerçamõ, Üzümdere and Dimçalõ.Ê

Preparations for forest fires

The Mula Forestry Ministry is preparing for forest fires as the season for fires approaches. There will be a special emergency response team on the sea in Göcek for forest fires.

A conference was held on Friday about forest fires, led by Mula Governor Ahmet Altıparmak. He said combating forest fires would be more efficient this year.

Mula Forestry District Manager İbrahim Aydın said this season there are 1,800 workers employed to combat forest fires and there will be 100 water trucks, two planes based in Bodrum, one helicopter in each district Marmaris, Fethiye, Milas and in the center of the city of Muğla ready to take action when a fire occurs in a forest nearby. We will continue combating fires from the air and on land, Aydın said, adding that the boat in Göcek waters will be prepared for firefighting too. Because the coastal line of Göcek is too long the ministry decided to place a boat in the sea.

There are 1.2 million hectare of forestland in and around Muğla.

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