Lebanon .. a fire devouring parts of the largest pine forest in the region

Volunteers and members of the Civil Defense, supported by army helicopters, struggle today, Wednesday, to put out a fire in northern Lebanon that broke out in the largest wild pine forest in the country and the region.

The Army Command announced in a tweet that "the helicopters belonging to the Lebanese army, supported by military units, are contributing to the operations of putting out the fire that broke out last night in the forests of Batramaz-Denniyeh, to prevent its spread."

After hours of strenuous efforts, the caretaker environment minister, Nasser Yassin, told AFP on Wednesday afternoon that the fire "is under control, but the situation remains under control to avoid a recurrence of the fire."

AFP photographers saw two army helicopters working throughout the day to fill their tanks from an artificial swimming pool that the Civil Defense supplied with water, before heading to extinguish the fire and then cool the site.

"When the cooling operations are over, we will move on foot into the forest with water sprinklers and shovels to make sure that the fire is completely controlled," Hamad Hamdan, a member of the Civil Defense at the scene, told AFP.

Fog prevented helicopters from putting out the fire Tuesday. Volunteers from the area worked to fight the fire with shovels and primitive methods due to the ruggedness of the site, which is known for its dense trees.

Yassin, who went to the place on Wednesday morning, did not rule out that the fire had been set, pointing to investigations conducted by the security forces in this regard.
Pictures posted by Yassin and environmental activists on social media showed clouds of smoke rising on Tuesday afternoon from three points inside the forest, before the intense fire broke out.


"It is not excluded that the fire was staged, as it appears in the photo taken before sunset," Yassin said, calling on "the security forces to move and the judiciary to be strict with the punishment of those who ignite the fires."

Activists expressed their fear that fires will destroy large areas of forest with the approach of the summer season and the rise in temperatures, especially with the rush of citizens in rural areas to collect firewood for the winter season with the high prices of fuels used for heating.

"The largest wild pine forest in the Middle East is now burning," environmental activist Paul Abirached wrote on Facebook on Tuesday.


Lebanon witnesses annually the outbreak of fires in its forests, and those concerned struggle to put them out as human and technical capabilities dwindle. At least a boy died a year ago while fighting a fire that broke out on the outskirts of his village in the north of the country.

And in October 2019, huge fires devoured large areas of forest and trapped civilians in their homes amid the inability of the authorities, which received support from several countries to put them out, which the Lebanese considered at the time, further evidence of the authorities’ neglect and incompetence.

Those fires provoked widespread anger and even formed one of the reasons behind the unprecedented popular protests that Lebanon witnessed on October 17, 2019 against the political class.


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