Turkey to buy five firefighting planes: Minister
Turkey’s Agriculture and Forestry Ministry announced on late Sept. 1 that the country will be buying five firefighting planes, which were subject to discussions amid wildfires that broke out all at the same time late July and devastated some 53 provinces out of 81.
“Those were horrifying days for the country. It was hard for all of us. They were a series of wildfires never seen in the history of the republic,” Bekir Pakdemirli said in a live broadcast on the private broadcaster CNN Türk.
Eight people died in the 270 wildfires that were brought under control after meticulous efforts that lasted two weeks.
He said Turkey will buy five firefighting planes in the upcoming months.
“We can rent out the helicopters anytime. It is also logical to rent them out. We use the firefighting vehicles three months a year. Maintaining them the rest of the year costs a lot,” he said.
“But we will buy five and keep them readily available.”
Reminding that the country was in the phase of buying the planes over the last two years, the minister said that the latest fires “accelerated the process.”
The Turkish Aeronautical Association (THK) was criticized harshly for doing nothing to contain the wildfires as the three neglected planes in the institution’s inventory were too old to fly.
“We have no problem with THK. If the institution’s officials had useable planes at hand, they would have sent us. However, those planes were not active. It is like making a car without a number plate legal,” he noted.
He stressed that maintaining the THK’s firefighting planes would cost between 27 million and 34 million Turkish Liras ($3.2 million and $4.1 million). “It is nearly the price of a new plane.”
When asked about the annual efforts to put out the fires, the minister said, “Some 3,000 wildfires break out annually. People are unaware of most of them.”
About allegations of a sabotage, the minister said, “The wildfires in [the southern province of] Antalya were started by a glue-sniffer and a man with pyromania [disorder causing people to be unable to resist starting fires].”
“A child was responsible for another one,” he said.
“Meteorological factors made it more difficult for us to contain the fires,” he added.