Earlier this year we brought you an article on climate change and its effect in Turkey.
One of the consequences of the increase in temperatures due to climate change is an increase in the length of the fire season, fire frequency and severity.
Wildfires are uncontrolled blazes fueled by weather, wind, and dry underbrush. Wildfires can burn acres of land- consuming everything in their paths – in mere minutes, threatening the lives of people and animals, destroying homes, the ecosystem and the habitats of many species of wildlife. They are also a major cause of forest degradation.
How do wildfires start?
There are three conditions that need to be present in order for a wildfire to burn, which firefighters refer to as the fire triangle: fuel, oxygen, and a heat source. Fuel is any flammable material surrounding a fire, including trees, grasses, brush, even homes. The greater an area’s fuel load, the more intense the fire. Air supplies the oxygen a fire needs to burn. Heat sources help spark the wildfire and bring fuel to temperatures hot enough to ignite. Lightning, burning campfires or cigarettes, hot winds, and even the sun can all provide sufficient heat to spark a wildfire.
Although wildfires are fueled by weather and dry vegetation, most forest fires in Turkey, especially during the summer, are caused by humans, according to professor Hakan Serhad Soysan of Sakarya University.
Massive wildfire in Dalaman and Göcek
Last week the news was dominated by a massive fire that engulfed forests in Göcek and Dalaman destroying between 350 and 400 hectares of forest, damaging a cemetery, killing wildlife and destroying habitats and plant life.
The fire, sparked by a yet undetermined cause, started in the woods near the Karaağaç Cemetery during the afternoon of Wednesday 10 July.
520 firefighters, 20 helicopters, 105 water tankers, and 18 bulldozers worked hard to battle the flames, which spread towards Fethiye as a result of strong winds. By Thursday morning the fire had been brought under control however, flared up again due to high winds. The fire was extinguished on Friday.
More than 30 houses in two villages were evacuated as a precaution. The fire was visible from parts of Fethiye, approximately 60 kilometers away from the focal point of the blaze.
Although five forestry worker had to be rescued when they became trapped, there were no human casualties or property losses, only an unoccupied boutique hotel suffered minor damage.
Increase in number of fires
Agriculture and Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said in a statement that the reason the fire spread at such a fast pace was the weather conditions, pointing out the temperature of 37 degrees Celsius, wind speed of 40 kilometers per hour and humidity rate of 17 percent.
“The biggest fire Turkey has ever seen damaged an area of 17,000 hectares. Although this one was not a big fire in that sense, it was the threat posed to the residential areas that concerned us the most. Turkey has seen 730 forest fires this year so far, with an increase of 45 compared with the same time period of 2018,”
The General Directorate of Forestry have been working on reducing the average time of first respond to a fire from 13 minutes to under 10 minutes, according to the minister.
“The total of the affected area [from fires] in 2018 was 1,525 hectares, whereas it is only 828 hectares in 2019. Last year an area of 2 hectares was affected in a fire on average and now the average of affected area is less than one hectare,” he added.
In a further statement to the press, Minister Pakdemirli pointed out that there is a lot of speculation about the fire on social media and said:
“Our citizens can continue their holidays with peace of mind. If you are thinking of coming to the region on holiday, you can come here without hesitation. There is not the slightest threat to the residential areas. Do not heed the speculation made through social media. “
He added that at the beginning of the autumn saplings will be planted in a reforestation project.
Sue Fockner-Aşık, owner of Arkadaslik Yachting captured some amazing shots from Fethiye Bay which she has shared with us.
And here’s the scene after the fire had been totally extinguished. We apologize for the upsetting nature of the last photograph but this is the reality of wildfires!
90 percent caused by people
Some 90 percent of the forest fires are caused by people and only 10 percent of them erupt naturally, according to official statistical data.
Although Turkey battles with many forest fires throughout the year, thanks to the immediate action taken by the ministry as well as brave firefighters, forest fires are generally brought under control very quickly.
How to prevent a wildfire
If 90 percent of wildfires are caused by people, they can be prevented by people too. Here are some tips on how to prevent a wildfire.
- Be certain to completely extinguish cigarettes before disposing of them. Do not discard cigarettes, matches, and smoking materials from moving vehicles.
- When camping, take care when using and fueling lanterns, stoves, and heaters. Make sure lighting and heating devices are cool before refueling. Avoid spilling flammable liquids and store fuel away from appliances.
- Never leave a fire unattended. Completely extinguish the fire—by dousing it with water and stirring the ashes until cold—before sleeping or leaving the campsite.
- Always have a source of water nearby, before you start a fire or light a barbecue.
- Never leave a barbeque unattended.
- Do not dispose of ashes from barbeques until they are cold to the touch. Douse them in water to be on the safe side.
- Dispose of all rubbish in bins or take it home with you. Glass bottles – or any glass- can act like a magnifying glass and focus the sun’s rays sufficiently to cause smouldering, followed by a full-scale blaze.
Contact 110 Emergency Services for fire immediately if you notice an unattended or out-of-control fire.
Thank you to our courageous firefighters
520 firefighters and forestry workers battled the fire for two days and nights, on land and from the air. Supplementary workers were sent from Antalya, Denizli, Isparta, Kutahya and Zonguldak, ensuring the workers could be rested at regular intervals. Local residents provided food and drinks to the exhausted workers. Can you even begin to imagine the conditions they were working under with the hot summer temperatures as well as the heat from the fire? And they wear thick padded protective clothing too!
Firefighters are inspirational. It takes a special kind of person to become a firefighter. They run into burning buildings and forests, investigate the causes of fires and deal with horrific car accidents, as well as a host of routine duties. Firefighters see and experience things that affect them both mentally and physically. Despite this, they continue to do what they do.
Firefighters are true heroes. When there is a fire our natural instinct is to run in the opposite direction – away from the danger. Firefighters run towards the danger and are usually first on the scene.
Their courage knows no limits. They know the danger involved and that there is a possibility things may not go so well for them, but they do it anyway.
Our courageous firefighters are true heroes.
Sources: Climate Change Post/National Geographic/Daily Sabah/Hürriyet Daily News/Earth Eclipse/Operation Warm