Iranian hero dies fighting Zagros forest wildfire

June 21, 2020 - 18:16

TEHRAN – Alborz Zare’ei, a 38-year-old environmental enthusiast and climber, who was helping extinguish a wildfire in the southwestern part of the country, lost his life after 18 days of suffering from burn wound infection.

On May 28, a wildfire broke out in several protected areas in the provinces of Khuzestan, Bushehr, Lorestan, Kohgiluyeh, and Boyer-Ahmad, including Khaeez protected area.

Being impassable had made fire-fighting operation almost impossible and only helicopters could reach the area, so Zagros forests were burning for almost 6 days or more.

Lack of aerial firefighting equipment made the locals join hands and extinguish the fire, which was raging through valuable oak trees and animals.

Alborz also volunteered to defend nature and extinguish the fire in Gachsaran highlands, but due to inhalation of fire fumes and severe wounds lost his life on Friday evening, June 20.

Some 300 hectares of forests and rangelands in Gachsaran county turned into ashes, as well as 200 hectares of forests in Kohgilouyeh, IRNA news agency reported.

The firefighting operation in the protected areas of Khaeez has left 6 injured so far.

Khaeez, measuring 28,000 hectares, was registered as a Protected Area in 1998, due to its unique forest life and animals. It lies in Khuzestan and Kohgiloyeh and Boyerahmad provinces in southwestern Iran. 

Khaeez consists of natural forest resources and is the habitat of over 1,500 wild goats and other wildlife such as leopards and caracals, also called Persian lynx.

Zagros Mountain forest steppe ecoregion with an area of about 6 million hectares (3.5 percent of Iran) is ranging northwest to southeast and roughly paralleling the country's western border. The forests constitute 40 percent of the country’s forested area and are stretching over 12 provinces. These forests have also been called western oak forests, due to the dominance of oak species. 

According to the Science Direct Western, oak forests are home to many species including, the Persian squirrel which is the indicator species of this region. Persian squirrels and oak trees have symbiotic relationships, in which forests provide ecological requirements of Persian squirrels such as food and shelter, and in return, the Persian squirrel contributes in seed germination and forests’ regeneration. 

A wide variety of wildlife, including wolves, leopards, and even the Persian fallow deer, which was once thought extinct, have made their homes in the mountains.

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