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White Helmets Firefighting Teams Successfully Control Massive Forest Fire in Deir Othman, West of Idlib After 9 Hours of Nonstop Efforts

In the current month of July, the number of fires has surged in the countryside of Idlib and Aleppo, surpassing the daily toll of previous months. As of July 23, our teams have responded to a total of 370 fires, including 153 incidents on agricultural lands and 39 fires in forests and forested areas.

Yesterday evening, on Thursday, July 27, a massive fire erupted in a forested area near the village of Deir Othman in the western countryside of Idlib, marking the largest fire White Helmets firefighting teams have responded to this season. After 9 hours of continuous work, firefighting teams were able to control the fire. However, their efforts were challenged by several factors, including soaring temperatures and strong winds that intensified the spread of the fire. Additionally, the rugged terrain in the vicinity hindered the entry of firefighting vehicles, adding to the difficulties faced by the teams.

At 6:10 pm on Thursday, July 27, our teams were alerted about the outbreak of the fire NS immediately rushed directly to the site where they encountered multiple burning forest areas. Tragically, the fire had already spread to two houses, resulting in their complete destruction.

60 volunteers from 8 fire-fighting centers participated in extinguishing operations with a fleet of 9 fire engines and 6 water tankers to combat the fire, consuming over 2,000 cubic meters of water. In addition to the fire-fighting team, an evacuation team with two cars, an emergency ambulance team consisting of a doctor, paramedics and three ambulances, a team of trainers, and a media team also participated in the operation.

The teams confronted significant challenges caused by high temperatures, thick smoke, and the rugged mountainous terrain of the area. Unfortunately, four volunteers from the firefighting teams, along with another individual, suffered from suffocation and shortness of breath due to inhaling fumes resulting from the fires, despite our teams following security and safety procedures during work.

While our teams responded to the fire in Deir Othman, west of Idlib, they remained on high alert in the northeastern countryside of Lattakia due to concerns that the fires might spread from areas controlled by the regime forces. Yesterday, our teams responded to six fires in northwestern Syria.

During the past week, the indicators of fire danger reached alarming levels in the forested areas of western and northwestern Syria, exacerbated by an ongoing heat wave in the region. In response to this critical situation, our teams promptly heightened their readiness levels to respond around the clock. Additionally, they strategically deployed advanced response points in the forested areas to ensure swift action in the event of any fire outbreak.

In July, the countryside of Idlib and Aleppo experienced a notable surge in the number of fires compared to the average daily toll in the previous months. As of July 23, our teams responded to a total of 370 fires across 166 areas in northwestern Syria, resulting in the loss of three children's lives and caused injuries to 10 civilians, including two children and two women. Of these fires, 153 occurred on farms, 39 in forests, forested areas, and bushes, 24 in camps, and 69 in civilian homes.

From the start of 2023 until July 23, our teams extinguished a total of 1,745 fires in northwestern Syria. This included 602 fires in agricultural lands, 67 in forests, bushes, and forested areas, 447 fires in civilian homes, 120 fires in camps, and 62 fires in power stations. These fires resulted in the death of 17 civilians, including 13 children and two women. Moreover, 77 others were injured, including 23 children and 22 women, suffering from burns and suffocation.

The White Helmets' seek to minimize fire damage to civilians by ensuring continuous readiness of firefighting teams, operating around the clock to respond promptly to any fire incidents by strategically deploying monitoring teams near forested areas. Additionally, teams actively engage in educating civilians, humanitarian workers, farmers, teachers, gas station workers, and those living in displacement camps, on fire awareness and response. The training sessions cover theoretical knowledge on fire types and causes, as well as practical exercises on extinguishing small fires using manual fire extinguishers and implementing security and safety measures to safeguard property.

Prior to the commencement of the harvest and summer seasons, White Helmets firefighting teams developed a comprehensive response plan targeting agricultural crop fires and forest areas to ensure swift access and effective coordination in their responses. The plan aimed to minimize losses caused by crop and forest fires by implementing practical and educational measures to prevent their occurrence and enable prompt and efficient handling when they do arise.

Forests are vital for maintaining environmental balance as they absorb greenhouse gases, mitigate climate change, and prevent soil erosion. In northwestern Syria, where the conditions of war and displacement have led to significant vegetation loss, forest fires directly endanger the livelihoods of local communities. Our teams are dedicated to not only safeguarding lives from fires but also preserving the environment and maintaining this crucial ecological balance.