Residents of rural areas in the Kurdish-majority Lice (Licê) district of Diyarbakır (Amed) in Turkey, claiming that the official response to the fires was too slow, took matters into their own hands to extinguish a forest fire that broke out in a wooded area and was spreading towards settlements.
No-one initially came to fight the fire, which started in rural Lice on Saturday morning, despite calls from villagers, and it eventually reached residential areas. The villagers themselves managed to bring the fire under control on Monday.
There have been three forest fires in the same region in the past month. Representatives of the Mezopotamya Ecology Movement led a delegation to inspect the areas affected by the fires on Sunday. During these assessments, conversations with locals revealed the presence of several sensor-activated cameras in the area, but nevertheless the authorities seemed to consistently delay intervention during each outbreak of fire.
At the time of the delegation’s presence in the area of the fire, smoke was still rising sporadically in the mountainous terrain due to the lack of efforts to cool the land.
Villagers expressed concern that the response to the fires was inadequate and untimely. The fire damaged a cemetery and some homes in the villages, according to Mezopotamya Agency.
One resident said that the fire brigade arrived late and was unable to approach the area because of the escalating fire situation. He said: “They were working from the side of the road. Later a bulldozer came and cleared the way for them. By the time they arrived, the fire had already spread. We barely escaped alive. Our hands got burnt trying to fight the fire. When the fire reached the mountains, it went completely out of control. Even now, as you can see, smoke is rising from the mountains. We did our best. If the fire brigade had arrived earlier, we could have contained it before it spread so much. We tore off branches to put out the fire because we had no water, “.
Residents also noted that there had been fires in the same area before, but this time houses were damaged as well as the forest.
The fire in Lice was one of a series that spread unchecked in Kurdish-majority areas of southeast Turkey over the weekend. One fire in a village in Hakkari (Colemêrg) province has been raging since Saturday, while another broke out, also on Saturday, on Mount Cudi (Çiyayê Cûdî), which has been in the news recently due to allegations of deliberate fire-starting by the Turkish forces.