Barbecue fire threatens Istanbul’s last remaining forests

18 August 2020

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TURKEY – A spate of fires has hit the Belgrad and Aydos forests, the last major green places of Istanbul, which appear to have been started by barbecues.

Fires broke out at five different points in the past 15 days in the Aydos Forest, which is on the Asian side of the metropolis, holding a population of 16 million.

As human activity is the first cause of forest fires, those who make barbecues are to be held responsible at large for the forest fires that occur during the summer season.

The fire due to barbecues should not happen in the areas where picnics are prohibited in Istanbul, including the Belgrad Forest that covers an area of around 5,500 hectares.

Those who break the rules often claim that they did not know that it is forbidden to have a barbecue in the forest, according to daily Milliyet.

“Those who came before us had a barbecue, so we did it too,” they said, stressing that they don’t know there is a ban.

Hundreds of people are making barbecue in the inner parts of the Aydos Forest at the weekend, although there is a recreational area nearby.

The officials charge visitors per vehicle at the toll booths, which is at the entrance of the recreational area adjacent to forest boundaries.

Tables are placed in the recreational area where it is allowed for the people to have picnics and make barbecues.

Even those who do not have the equipment are given a barbecue for a fee.

However, after a while, problems started despite having recreational areas.

Since every part of the forest can be reached quite easily both by foot and by vehicles, citizens are usually scattered in areas where they can be alone.

It is seen that Istanbul residents, who enjoy picnics under the trees, tend to light up bonfires quite comfortably.

Those, who do not have or want to rent a barbecue, collect wood nearby to make fire using stones on the forest floor.

When a family was reminded that it is forbidden to light a fire on the ground, a woman replied that she wanted to grill eggplants and was unaware that it was forbidden to do so, and nobody informed them at the entrance.

The situation is not much different in the Belgrad Forest, located on Istanbul’s European side.

Families make fire with the wood they find in the forest and cook the meat that they bring with them.

Citizens who prefer remote locations to avoid paying an entrance fee leave the forest wide open for a potential risk of it catching fire.

A visitor who came to the forest on a picnic with his family said that he lit the fire on the ground because there was no barbecue equipment and that he would put it out after the work was done.

Istanbul Police Chief Zafer Aktaş, while on air patrol over the Aydos Forest at the weekend with his police team, warned the citizens to not light the fire on the forest floors.

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