Beware, it’s forest fire season: what to do in case of fire in Turkey
As anyone with a keen interest in Turkey knows, last week the country suffered dozens of catastrophic forest fires that forced evacuations of villages and even hotels. Fires have broken out in Manavgat, Bodrum, Marmaris, Ortaca, Datça, Adana in Antalya and the list goes on. The ramifications of the damage caused by this week’s fires have yet to be counted, but within days 80 hectares (nearly 200 acres) burned in Bodrum, there was one death and 27 houses and a factory were Having fallen to dust in Marmaris and Manavgat, which had to evacuate 18 villages, at least eight people were killed while dozens more are still receiving treatment. While we have become accustomed to seeing fires ravaging countries and our loved ones abroad, this time the violent wake of the spread of wildfires is in our own backyards and so it is important to be prepared. to such cases and know what to do if it happens to you!
I recently wrote about a fire that destroyed my decorated patio in Istanbul, which I suspect was due to a burning cigarette that landed on the upholstery or fabrics I had hung up to protect me from the sun. However, what I failed to mention is that I actually experienced an even more devastating fire that I literally had to try to put out alongside many members of my neighborhood who, if not had not been extinguished, could have been catastrophic. It was a forest fire that quickly spread through a field of weeds and trees bordering my house in the beloved Gümüşlük area of Bodrum. One of the last natural sights in the city center, how the fire started is unknown; however, there was talk of children playing with firecrackers among the weeds.
The most frightening and important fact about a fire is that, unlike thunder, lightning, or even an earthquake, it has no warning and is eerily silent. I learned this while I was sitting at my desk working on my computer with the music playing late one night with the curtains naturally closed. If it hadn’t been for my neighbor upstairs who noticed the flames when he stepped out onto the patio to smoke, I really don’t know how I would have known there was a fire a few feet away. from my home before it was engulfed in flames.
When I pulled the curtain back to look, I only saw orange light. My neighbor had already started loading his car with his most valuable items including his computer and television as I rushed to locate my cat and dog and secure them in the car for now. When I opened the door the neighbors had already started to arrive and brought buckets and hoses and watered the fence, trees and grass belonging to my house, which was the main one in danger.
The smoke made it very difficult to see, not to mention breathing. So we immediately closed all windows and doors to ensure clean air was available. I immediately called the fire department, who demanded that we clear the area of the cars so that they could easily access it. With the pets in tow, I hopped in my car and drove out onto the street to give the firefighters room to do their jobs. But the crowds of people on the street who ran towards the fire in an attempt to help were unlike anything I could have imagined. My next door neighbors immediately hooked up a hose to their pool and pumped the water onto the burning field. I parked with a vantage point of the fire and watched everyone drive off to clear the street. Firefighters arrived and within half an hour the whole incident was over except for the blackened field of burnt trees which have since remained in plain sight, serving as a constant reminder.
Keep in mind that as the fires ravage several places along Turkey’s southern coast, many entertainment events have been called off out of solidarity and out of respect for the victims of the devastation. To expats or visitors to Turkey it may sound foreign, but here in this country people find it difficult to party and have fun while others and the country itself suffer.
The decision to restrict access to forest areas for the next fortnight or month was also taken by a number of municipalities, including Istanbul, Bursa, Çanakkale, Izmir and Gaziantep.
What to do in case of fire in Turkey
AKUT, the Turkish Search and Rescue Association, recently released a series of instructions on what to do when faced with a fire. The first course of action in the event of a fire is to immediately alert people in the vicinity by shouting, sounding an alarm and immediately dialing 112, which is now the centralized number in Turkey for all fire departments. emergency, including firefighters. AKUT strongly advises against attempting to extinguish an uncontrollable fire and instead ensure that the area is safely cleared to make room for firefighters.
In the event of a fire near a residence or a place of business, never use an elevator. Make sure you don’t open any windows as the air flow could instantly increase and even ignite the flames and you want to protect any good quality air you have. If you have to fight the smoke, cover your nose and mouth with a damp cloth and crawl to lower your body as close to the ground as possible as the heat increases. Before opening doors, AKUT advises running the top of your hand against it up and down to check for heat spots coming from the other side. If heat is echoing through the door, the directive is to try to wet it with damp towels or block the door with something to further obstruct potential flames. AKUT also reminds us of “stop, drop, rock and roll,” which was taught to us in the US in which you drop and roll on the ground; However, their advice is to try to wrap yourself in a blanket first if possible.
Where to find updates and how to help
AFAD, short for the Interior Ministry’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority, oversees all government efforts in the event of a natural disaster. On its website, there are constant updates on ongoing wildfires as well as a search engine and a map of all emergency assembly points in the country. They also have a volunteer program that they provide training for. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry website at ogm.gov.tr has a regularly updated list of recent fires and whether they are under control or still active. AKUT also provides updates on fires and offers the opportunity to volunteer in rescue efforts. The Turkish Red Crescent, Kızılay, also helps victims and accepts donations.
Founded by none other than Turkish rock star Haluk Levent, Ahbap.org is a website that aims to connect those in need with those who can help. Following the forest fires, they set up a map that identifies hotel points offering accommodation for those affected by the fire. There is also a form you can submit if you would like to donate a vehicle to assist with the evacuation efforts.
On Friday July 30, the Turkish Foundation for Soil Erosion Control for Reforestation and Natural Habitat Protection (TEMA) launched a fundraising campaign for the replanting of trees in areas devastated by the fire. Donation accounts were opened for each individual province affected by the fires. TEMA is an organization that also takes volunteers.
The HAYTAP Animal Rights Federation has offered to cover the costs of treating animals injured in the Antalya and Adana fires and is also accepting donations. Meanwhile, the Municipality of Marmaris also announced that all animals injured by the fires will be treated free of charge by vets in the district, including turtles, porcupines and birds. In Bodrum, the Yücelen Hayvan Hastanesi, which is a veterinary hospital, has also opened its doors 24/7 for all animals that have been affected. There were also posts in expat Facebook groups of at least one volunteer looking for animals in the burned areas.
There have been calls from a number of municipalities for emergency supplies, such as batteries, water and ayran (a refreshing yogurt drink with a salinity ideal for refueling. electrolytes), and many have established collection points so that you can check with your local authorities if you choose to contribute.