People, Environment

Forest Fire Incidents Declining

The new plan is supposed to improve crisis management at the time of forest blazes.The new plan is supposed to improve crisis management at the time of forest blazes.

The frequency of fires in forests and woodlands managed by the Forests, Range and Watershed Management Organization has declined since last year, a senior forestry official said.

Nasser Moqaddasi, the deputy head of FRWO, added that in the first three months of the last Iranian year (March 20-June 20, 2016), 2,250 hectares of forests burned in 270 incidents, whereas in the same period this year fire incidents dropped down to only 20, according to a report on the website of the Department of Environment.

“A comprehensive scheme to combat wildfires has been provided to improve crisis management at the time of forest blazes,” he said.

The official noted that the scheme has been prepared by the Ministry of Interior, Department of Environment and FRWO, according to a report on the DOE website.

Every year, particularly in summer, wildfires wreak havoc on forests and protected areas, of which the latter is managed by DOE.

Moqaddasi said forests cover only 7% of Iran’s landmass, which means protecting them is of utmost importance.

“Their destruction would have serious implications on our climate and economy,” he said, adding that Iran’s arid climate coupled with human carelessness has left the country’s woodlands susceptible to wildfires.

He said vulnerable provinces such as Ilam, Kohgilouyeh-Boyerahmad and Khuzestan are equipped with “near real-time satellite imagery” that allows local authorities to pinpoint areas most likely to suffer from wildfires.

Measures such as forming rapid response teams in every province, equipping park rangers with fire extinguishers and installing monitoring systems seem to have helped reduce the damage caused by forest fires.

In addition, stationing helicopters in 14 provinces has significantly reduced firefighters’ response time and accelerated the process of putting out wildfires.

“The assistance of environmental activists and locals is integral to quickly putting out fires, so their help is appreciated,” Moqaddasi said.

Looking at his figures, the measures have paid off so far.

According to forestry officials, 95% of all wildfires in Iran are manmade, 30% of which are intentional. On average, forest fires inflict losses worth 3.2 trillion rials ($84.2 million).

Those who intentionally start wildfires will serve between three- and five-year prison terms, while those who carelessly cause fire in forests and other protected areas will be imprisoned for between three months and three years.

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