‘Humans responsible for over 95% of wildfires’

July 10, 2019

TEHRAN – Over 95 percent of wildfires in the country are due to human-caused ignition from unattended campfires, debris, and negligently discarded cigarettes, the commander of the forest protection unit of Forests, Range, and Watershed Management Organization, has said.

During the last month, wildfires increased by 35 percent compared to the same period last year, while human-started wildfires accounted for 95 percent of the whole massive fire, Ali Abbasnejad said.

Despite the effort made by rangers, wildfire sparks blazed through more than 500 hectares of the forests and rangelands across the country, he lamented.

He went on to add that some of the wildfires also are intentional acts of arson, some set fire to another's property which is rooted in regional disputes, ISNA reported on Tuesday. 
This year, 60 to 70 percent of the wildfires happened in Zagros and Hyrcanian forests, however, last year the most raging fires were reported in provinces of Khuzestan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad, Kordestan, he explained.

Wildfire even swept in two provinces of Qom and Markazi, despite having less vegetation cover, he highlighted.

Heavy rains over the past few months led to growing vegetation covering vast areas of forests and rangelands which soon turned dry due to temperature rise and enhanced the possibility of massive fires, he lamented, adding, people must be cautious to prevent such happenings.

Based on the latest data published by National Drought Warning and Monitoring Center affiliated to Iran’s Meteorological Organization, since the current crop year (September 23, 2018), precipitation in the country increased to 312 from 159.3 millimeters in the previous water year, demonstrating a 95.9 percent rise. The amount also raised in comparison to the long-term average of 223.2 mm, amounting to 39.6 percent.

“Some 83 percent of the country's total land area amounting to 135 million hectares is covered by natural resources. Unfortunately, we do not have sufficient human forces and facilities to protect our natural resources.”

Currently, some 4 million rangers are protecting the natural resources of the country, but there is still a shortage of forces, he added.

Referring to forests and pastures protection as a national duty, he added that it is the responsibility of all the organizations to better plan for potential desirable and undesirable effects of wildfires and the people also should care for the environment.

“Over the past few years, under the agreement between the Forests, Range, and Watershed Management Organization, the Ministry of Defense and the Disaster Management Organization, we insisted to use helicopter for aerial firefighting, which has not yet been feasible,” he concluded.

Qasem Sabz’ali, commander of the forest protection unit of the Forests, Range, and Watershed Management Organization, said in April 2018 that some 15,000 hectares of forests burn in wildfires annually in Iran that 95 percent of them are caused by humans, ISNA reported.

Forest wildfire brings heavy economic burden amounting to 560 million rials (about $13,000) per hectare for the country, he added.

Heavy rains over the past few months led to vegetation covering vast areas of forests and rangelands which soon turned dry due to temperature rise and enhanced the possibility of massive fires.

How to reduce wildfires

The following measures can be adopted in order to prevent wildfires.

Only start a campfire or bonfire in an appropriate fire pit, cleared of all vegetation and ringed by stones.

Never leave a fire unattended, such as overnight.

Always make sure the fire is completely doused with water and smothered with dirt before leaving.

Don’t start a fire on a windy day. Save it for another time.

Dispose of used matches and butts in a closed container or cup of water.

Keep lighters and matches out of the reach of children.

Only burn yard waste or rubbish in a 50-gallon drum or fire pit.

Don’t burn anything highly combustible, including paper or fabric soaked in oil or gasoline.

Don’t park a hot car or other machine in dry grass.

Don’t allow gasoline or motor oil to spill on grass or other vegetation.

Tractors, off-road vehicles and equipment being used in wooded areas, such as chainsaws, must have spark arrestors.

If you’re lighting a campfire or doing a burn, make sure to have a fire extinguisher.

If a fire has gotten out of control, you must call the emergency services immediately.

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