A single forest fireplace persists in Turkey’s Muğla virtually two weeks on

Turkey has managed to contain most of the 270 forest fires that raged in the south of the country in the past few weeks. However, a single fire still threatens areas in the southwestern province of Muğla. Another fire that broke out on Monday in Bozdoğan district in western Aydın province was extinguished hours later.

According to the latest figures from the Minister of Agriculture and Forests, Bekir Pakdemirli, the forest fire in the Köyceğiz district of Muğla, which is home to popular holiday resorts, is still out of control.

The fire in Köyceğiz started in the bushland before spreading to a large forest on July 29. On-site firefighters faced the challenge of responding to the fire on the slopes of a steep valley. Water bombers and helicopters made hundreds of flights to keep the flames from spreading to residential areas. Nine helicopters were in the area for fire fighting on Tuesday.

The first major fires began on July 28th in Manavgat in the province of Antalya, which borders on Muğla. Soon more fires broke out in Antalya, Muğla and other southern provinces, including Adana and Osmaniye. The efforts of firefighters and volunteers paid off days later, although the fires left widespread destruction and completely burned down villages, particularly in Antalya.

The investigation into the cause of the fire is still ongoing, even though the authorities suspected that the PKK terror group was involved. A suspect was arrested in one of the Manavgat fires last week. Another suspect accused of starting a fire in the Akseki district of Antalya was arrested on Monday. The authorities did not disclose whether the suspects belonged to a terrorist organization.

Speaking to reporters at a coordination center in Muğla late Monday, Agriculture and Forestry Minister Pakdemirli said 5,350 firefighters, 15 planes and 64 helicopters had been used to contain the fires. The minister noted that the fire in Milas was difficult to contain, as flames in undergrowth had a longer burning time than in pine forests. He said it had also succeeded in preventing the fire from reaching a thermal power plant and had precautionary cleared the area around the power plant of combustible materials. Later that day, Pakdemirli announced that Mila’s fire was now under control.

During the fire in Köyceğiz, Pakdemirli said it was “locked in the valley”, “under control” and would not spread any further.

Help from Spanish crew

Sent to Turkey to help fight the forest fires, a Spanish crew has played an important role in containing the fires that affect large areas of forest. In an interview with the Anadolu Agency (AA), Maj. Juan Borrego, the field coordinator of the Spanish team, described their experience in Turkey and how they came together to put out fires in Marmaris, Milas and Köyceğiz. Borrego praised the coordination between his crew and the Turkish units, noting that the Spanish crew consisted of 27 members, five of whom worked in emergency management and 22 were responsible for the flights. The crew have experience containing fires in their home country, he said, but the forest fires in Turkey are the largest the Spanish team has ever faced. The team was impressed with the hospitality of the Turks and enjoyed the time in Turkey despite the reason for their visit, he said. The Turkish Coordination Center coped well with the situation as several pilots of foreign origin were involved in the process and planes with different engines, capacities and water loading systems.

Firefighter pilot Reynaldo Fernandez Boyero said he would throw water into the fires 15 times a day, with his plane able to carry around six tons of water. He said he helped contain forest fires in Köyceğiz, along with the flames approaching a power plant in Milas. He said the forest fires were the largest he had ever seen in nearly a decade, adding that the Spanish occupation was very sad to see the flames burn large areas and force many people to evacuate villages.

Working with foreign pilots was also an instructive experience, said the Spaniard, and the team learned a lot. The fight against forest fires will continue until they are all under control, he said, adding that they would like to do their part. The fire brigades start their work at daybreak and work tirelessly until dark, he said.

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