Brotherly Love in Times of Trouble: Azerbaijan Sends its Top Fire-fighting Force to Turkey
Forest fires in Turkey are the worst the country has seen in years. Image: Ksenia Kirillovykh/Shutterstock
It’s been a bad month for Turkey. Disastrous floods in some Black Sea coastal areas towards the end of July saw raging rivers washing away vehicles and causing houses to collapse, notably at Arhavi near the Georgian border. Meanwhile, on the south and southwestern coasts, contrastingly hot, dry conditions led to some of the country’s worst forest fires in living memory. After nearly two weeks, teams continue to battle the flames at Köyceğiz and Milas (Muğla Province) plus Aydın. However, 267 of the 270 fires that once afflicted 53 provinces are now under control or extinguished, according to Dr. Bekir Pakdemirli, Turkey’s Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. The ministry’s map of the fire action zones gives a sense of the truly massive scale of the problem. Pitted against the gigantic conflagrations were over 5000 fire-fighters, 850 fire engines, 430 bulldozers, and an aerial team of 15 water-scooping planes and over 60 helicopters.
Map showing the state of wild-fire fighting in Turkey, as of 8 pm on August 9th. The text is in Turkish, but the extent of the effort it represents is obvious. Image: Dr. Bekir Pakdemirli
This unprecedented mobilization of human and technical resources required help from far and wide. Spain and Croatia sent planes, Iran, Ukraine, and Russia sent fire teams, and Azerbaijan sent both. Often described as “one nation, two states” due to their closely related languages and cultures, Turkey and Azerbaijan have a fraternal relationship reinforced by Ankara’s support of Baku’s campaign in the 2020 Second Karabakh War. So for Azerbaijan to send its top fire-fighters to help out in the crisis was one of many heartfelt thank yous. The scale of the efforts needed in fighting the flames was revealed in a recently released video and a press conference by Deputy Minister Etibar Mirzayev. Mirzayev reported that Azerbaijani intervention had helped save 14 communities from destruction and that the ministry’s BE-200CS amphibious aircraft and fire-fighting helicopter had made a total of nearly 200 sorties. The team’s work in Muğla is still continuing, according to the Ministry of Emergency Affairs’ fire and rescue services department.
A well-earned break for an Azerbaijani fire-fighting team in Turkey’s Muğla Province. Image: Ministry Of Emergency Situations Of The Republic Of Azerbaijan
Though the weeks of hard work and international cooperation have had a remarkable level of success in dealing with fire on such a colossal scale, the situation remains dangerous. New outbreaks are still likely, and there’s an urgent need to create large firebreaks to limit the spread of future incidents. On August 9th, Minister Pakdemirli revealed that a major new fire had ignited in the forests of Ezine (Çanakkale Province) though fortunately, that has already been tamed.
Interestingly this was the same day that the UN’s Secretary-General, António Guterres, released an urgent statement saying that evidence of human-led climate change is now irrefutable. Sadly, events like those in Turkey this month are likely to become ever more common if the world fails to make concerted efforts in reducing the causes of such changes. Reaching a global agreement at November 2021’s COP26 (UN climate conference in Glasgow) looks more urgent than ever before.