Arson suspected in massive forest fire near touristic Ayvalık in western Turkey
A forest fire that broke out on Aug. 17 near the Devil’s Table in the Ayvalık district of the western province of Balıkesir has prompted authorities to suspect a possible arson attack.
While the cause of the fire, which reduced to ash around 15 hectares of forest land, is still being investigated, authorities are evaluating the case with the suspicion of whether the place was intentionally burned for the initiation of a construction project.
Speaking about the incident, Ayvalık Islands Natural Park Platform spokesperson Nebahat Dinler and the platform’s executive committee member Erhan Çiftçi said the entrances and exits of each natural park in Turkey is under control and people can’t picnic in these parks with fire.
“People can’t walk around however they want in these parks. No pathways can be opened. Flowers can’t be picked. Animals can’t be fed. The fires that erupt in natural parks are usually intentional,” Dinler said, adding that the Ayvalık Islands Natural Park is Turkey’s biggest protected natural area and “a treasure for Ayvalık.”
“This fire erupted in one of the most beautiful places of the natural park. There are regulations regarding the rules, but when we look at the practice, we see that there aren’t sufficient control personnel,” she said.
Another fire erupted in the same area on Aug. 19 at around 3 p.m., but it was put out in a short period of time.
Çiftçi, meanwhile, said he inspected the scene of the massive fire and left the area “feeling terrible.”
“The fire affected a massive area. They are saying ‘There are no casualties,’ but the trees and birds there were living beings. This is really painful. The place where the fire erupted is far from the sea, thus, I think, there is no possibility of the fire being started with a cigarette butt or picnic fire. It also cannot be a fire caused by a shepherd because there is no animal breeding there. For all these reasons, I think the fire is a suspicious one,” Çiftçi said, while calling on authorities to put the area under stricter protection.
“Visits should be allowed for those who want it with guides. Other than that, people mustn’t be allowed to enter the park whenever they want, light fires, and picnic and the park should never be opened for construction. We want our natural park to be protected. I believe that the electric cables of the buildings in the park area should cross through the natural park,” he added.
Two amphibious helicopters, six helicopters, 36 sprinklers and three heavy machineries took part in extinguishing works, along with several extinguishing crews, on Aug. 17. The fire was brought under control with difficulty.
Speaking about the incident, Ayvalık District Governor Namık Kemal Nazlı said “every burnt tree is a dark heritage to the future.”
“According to a report I received from our teams, 15 hectares of land were harmed by the fire, including two forages and olive lands,” he said.