Fars Forests, Habitats Burn as Temperatures Rise

Fars Forests, Habitats Burn as Temperatures RiseFars Forests, Habitats Burn as Temperatures Rise

Around 3,000 hectares of Fars Province’s forests in the vicinity of Pasargadae, the tomb of Cyrus the Great, were burned to the ground between Wednesday and Friday in what is the worst case of wildfires in the current Iranian year (started March 20).

The imperiled Pasargadae Forests burned for 50 hours as the long distance of the flame-hit regions from human-inhabited areas and unpreparedness of local authorities forced local residents to march six hours toward the fires and use whatever means necessary to put the flames out, YJC reported, quoting an official at the provincial Department of Environment as saying.

Fires broke out in the forests on Wednesday morning and within 24 hours they engulfed large swathes of the woodland due to strong winds.

According to Hamzeh Valavi, the head of DOE’s provincial office, the fires were tamed by Thursday morning, “but thinking the forests were not at risk anymore, local authorities and firefighters left the scene only for the fires to restart in a few hours.”

The fires were finally doused on Friday, but not before 3,000 hectares of the ancient forests—home of 200-year-old trees—were incinerated.

Despite the fact that protection of forests is a responsibility of the Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization, it was the provincial Iranian Red Crescent Society’s contribution that helped douse the fire by lending a helicopter to the firefighting efforts.

“Our helicopter flew around the fire-hit region for almost nine hours and transported a total of six tons of equipment plus 150 people to the area,” said Nasser Charkhsaz, head of the Help and Rescue Department of the IRCS.

  Impact on Wildlife

The fires spread as far as Bamoo National Park, whose protection is a responsibility of the DOE. The mountainous park does not have a lot of trees and it is mostly covered in ranges.

The fires, which burned throughout Friday before being completely put out, took a heavy toll on the region’s wildlife.

Speaking to Mehr News Agency, Hojjatollah Gashtasb, who is in charge of the provincial DOE’s crisis management effort, said a number of lizards, birds, snakes and turtles “that couldn’t escape the fires were unfortunately burned to death.”

The wildfire is expected to have taken an even heavier toll on the flora and fauna of the Pasargadae Forests, where it destroyed 750 hectares of the brown bear habitat.

Dozens of wildfire cases in the past months portend much larger fires in summer, which is expected to be up to 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than average.

Fires that frequently incinerate large portions of Iran’s dwindling forest areas inflict upward of 3.2 trillion rials ($94 million) in damage every year.

On average, wildfires destroy 15,000 hectares of woodlands every year. In the last calendar year that ended in March, fires spread through more than 44,800 hectares of forests, irreparably destroying 18,000 hectares.

The Zagros Forests, which cover 6 million hectares, stretching from northwestern to south-central Iran, suffer the most damage.

Officials say about 95% of all wildfires are caused by humans, around 85% of which are accidental.

One of the main reasons for the large-scale destruction of woodlands is the lack of equipment at the disposal of local authorities.

Last month, Khodakaram Jalali, the head of FRWO, said to help minimize wildfire damage this year, 32 fire stations have been set up throughout the country, while vulnerable regions have also been equipped with 800 fire brigades and 290 firefighters.

“The FRWO does not have helicopters to help fight forest fires. To address the problem, we’ve reached an agreement with the Armed Forces of Iran and the Disaster Management Organization to make use of their air fleet,” Jalali said.

The choppers will be stationed in six regions believed to be vulnerable to forest fires, mostly in western regions. It was not immediately clear when the organization plans to station the choppers in the designated locations.