Fire destroys 500 hectares of forest

Fire destroys 500 hectares of forest

BALIKESİR - Doğan News Agency
Fire destroys 500 hectares of forest

A wildfire in the Kaz (Ida) Mountains in western Turkey has been brought under control after destroying more than 500 hectares of forest land, Turkish authorities say, A number of nearby villages have been evacuated due to the blaze, which officials say may have been caused by a fire on a farm. AA photo

Wildfires that have destroyed more than 500 hectares of forest land in the Kaz (Ida) Mountains in western Turkey were partly under control, officials said on Sept. 11, following day-long efforts to fight the fire, which forced the evacuation of a number of villages.

No injuries were reported due to the large fire, which started late on Sept. 10 near the Havran district of the western province of Balıkesir.

Work to douse the fire failed to bring it under control due to heavy winds, Balıkesir Gov. Ahmet Turhan said yesterday. Fighting the fire from the air with firefighting planes was not possible because of the poor weather conditions, he said, with wind speeds in the region reaching 76 kilometers per hour according to meteorologists.

Later in the day, however, the regional director of forestry, Recep Ateş, announced that the large fire was partly under control.

“Firefighters have begun to respond to the fire effectively as wind speeds have started to decrease. There are some critical points that could be dangerous for us, but for now the situation does not look too bad,” Ateş said, adding that nearly 500 hectares forest had burned, and olive groves and farmland were also affected by the fire.

Extreme weather conditions

Firefighting planes took off immediately from Çanakkale airport, after reports reached crews that a fire had started, said Ayhan Nevarsa, a pilot who participated in the air operations to put out the fire.

“The fire in the Kaz Mountains was an extreme one,” Nevarsa, a flight operations manager for the Turkish Aeronautical Association, said. “Two more planes, from Izmir and Bodrum, also supported us, while we fought the fire form helicopters, but the reason the fire spread so quickly was the heavy winds.”

The wind speed in the area was 30-40 knots (15-20 meters per second), according to Nevarsa, which he said made it impossible to control the fire in the beginning. “We were not afraid of the fire but wind scared us,” he said.

The cause of the fire is still unknown, but according to officials’ estimations a blaze on a farm may have been the source. Forestry director Ateş said an investigation was being conducted to discover the source of the fire.

Villagers from evacuated areas of Kalabak and Tepeoba returned their homes after the zone was declared safe, and many ambulances were sent to the region in case of any smoke poisoning or injuries.
The extent of the damage is as yet unknown, Nevarsa said. There have been more forest fires in 2012 than in other years, he said.