Iran: Wildfires Rage in Winter

At least three fire incidents in northern Iran have been reported in the first week of winter, which is an unlikely season for wildfires
Abr Forest has caught fire twice over the past 40 days. Abr Forest has caught fire twice over the past 40 days.
Although a big share of all wildfires in the country is caused by humans, aridity and average precipitation rate have added to the problem

While winter is not normally thought of as wildfire season, fires have swept across several locations in its first week, which have bewildered officials.

At least three incidents have been reported this week following the huge blaze in the drought-stricken Meiqan Wetland located in Markazi Province on Dec. 22, which was linked to human activity.

  Marivan Reed Beds Destroyed

Earlier on Saturday, more than 30 hectares of reed beds in Zaribar Lake, located in Marivan, Kurdestan Province, were destroyed by fire.

Sabah Panahi, the head of the provincial office of the Department of Environment, announced that the lake has been engulfed by flames five times in the last 15 days, although fire officials are patrolling the area 24/7.

"The reed beds, a large part of which is now destroyed by fire, play a key role in purifying the water and maintaining the lake's ecological balance," he said.

Although the swampy and inaccessible lake hampered firefighting activities and strong wind made the fire wilder, it was finally put off after seven hours.

Iran's 102nd natural heritage site inscribed by ICHHTO in 2010, the lake is home to a wide range of flora and fauna, including 97 species of birds, 31 types of mammals and 11 aquatic species.

The sad saga does not end here though.

  Shahroud Forest Fire

On Sunday, fire broke out in Abr Forest in Shahroud, Semnan Province, Mehr News Agency reported.

"This was the second blaze in Abr Forest over the past 40 days," said Mohammad Reza Hashemi, governor of Shahroud County.

Firefighters and locals managed to extinguish the fire before it could spread further across the woodland.  

However, high wind over the tinder-dry landscape fanned the flames over 5,000 square meters of forest area.

"It is not clear what had caused the fire," he said.

The earlier incident in late November had turned over seven hectares of the woodland into ash.

The forest, covering 14,000 hectares, is inscribed as the 114th natural heritage site by Iran’s Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization.  

  Bandar-e Gaz Woodlands in Flames

Bandar-e Gaz in Golestan Province was another scene of the disaster, as flames erupted in the county's woodlands in the early hours of Sunday morning.

"Spreading across 50 hectares, the raging fire burnt the tree trunks mostly at the ground level and only fewer than 4% reached the top parts of the trees," Amir Abdous, the head of Provincial DOE, said.

"Fortunately the fire was extinguished soon, with the cooperation of firefighters, DOE forces and environmentalists," ILNA quoted him as saying.

Although figures show that about 95% of all wildfires in the country are caused by humans, aridity and low precipitations contribute to the disaster.

Reportedly, the average rainfall over the past few years has been 250 mm that declined further to 230 mm in the last water year (ended Sept. 22), while evaporation rate is above the global norm.

This could strongly raise the risks of more wildfires in the cold season.

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