Wildfire haunting Arasbaran forest extinguished

August 24, 2019

TEHRAN – Wildfire burning Arasbaran forest, northwestern Iran, since Monday, has been finally extinguished, head of East Azarbaijan’s department of environment (DOE) has announced.

Wildfire swept through protected areas of Dizmar village, in Varzaghan county, over the past six days; efforts made to put out the massive fire but it ignited hours later.

The fire has been put out, but forces are still operating in the area trying to soak some areas prone to ignition by helicopter, ISNA quoted Hamid Ghasemi as saying on Saturday.

The barrier to urgent firefighting in Arasbaran forest was the lack of helicopters, he lamented, adding, “We could not fully control the fire in some areas as the remaining ash was ignited by the wind after hours.”

Fortunately, the helicopter was received yesterday and is currently operating in the area, he further noted.

Yet, it is not clear that how many hectares of the forest burnt in the fire due to impassable areas and steep slopes, however, studies will soon be carried out to determine the losses, he explained.

Hamid Zohrabi, deputy DOE chief, also said that most of the areas burnt in fire have been under the DOE’s control, some of which have been forests and some others rangelands.

In some parts of the forests, trees have been affected by 30 percent, while in other parts trees turned into ashes, he added.

There is a doubt about whether the fire caused intentionally to own parts of the forest, he noted, adding, several suspects have been arrested, but investigations are still ongoing.

He went on to explain that although the burnt lands are not in a position where the offenders intended to own, it is clear that fire have been started deliberately.

Since the beginning of this year (March 21), the highest fire outbreaks in protected areas happened in East Azarbaijan province, Zohrabi said.

Apart from the recent fire, 430 hectares of the province have been affected by wildfires this year, he added.

In addition to the rangers, forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Army, the Red Crescent Society and local people participated in the firefighting operations, he concluded.

Ali Abbasnejad, the commander of the forest protection unit of Forests, Range, and Watershed Management Organization, said that raging wildfire burnt 11,254 hectares of forests and rangelands across the country, since the beginning of summer.

Referring to human share of 90-95 percent in wildfires, he explained that two human errors are the most important causes of wildfires, one is throwing glass bottles on the side of the roads or inside the forests which magnifies a ray of sunlight, igniting grass around it, and the other one is leaving a fire unextinguished; some of the people camping in the nature do not ensure that the fire is completely put out.

Arasbaran; holding unique treasures of natural resources

Arasbaran is a large mountainous area stretching from the Qusha Dagh massif, south of Ahar, to the Aras River in East Azarbaijan province. The region is confined to Aras River in the north, Meshgin Shahr county and Moghan in the east, Sarab county in the south, and Tabriz and Marand counties in the west.

Arasbaran protected area measures 78,560 hectares with a circumference of 134 kilometers. The altitude varies from 256 meters in the northern part to 2,896 meters which is the highest elevation in southern part of the area, according to the UNESCO website.

The region is of high importance due to its rich flora and fauna in particular presence of rare species. There can be found some endemic plant species including long-leaved trees such as Juniperus foetidissima and endangered species such as Taxus baccata.

Arasbaran is home to 215 species of birds, notably the Caucasian black grouse, grey partridge, black francolin, and common pheasant, 29 species of reptiles, 48 species of mammals, notably wild goat, wild boar, brown bear, wolf, lynx, and leopard, and 17 species of fish. 

A unique characteristic of Arasbaran forests is the ubiquity of edible wild trees. More exotic plant species, such as redcurrant, truffle and herbs with application in traditional medicine significantly add to the ecological importance of Arasbaran region.

Arasbaran protected area has been put forward as a candidate for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage list for 2018. Iran’s initial attempt on placing the protected area on the UNESCO list dates back to 2007.

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