Woman keeps 38-year watch over forests

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Come summer in Turkey, come the heat. Beyond leaving everyone sweating, however, the rising temperatures also have far greater consequences: fires that often turn hundreds of hectares of forest into ash.

But one 54-year-old woman living in the Aegean province of Manisa’s Salihli district has made it her mission to fight against the annual threat. For the past 38 years, Nurten Güler has been on the lookout for smoke and flames from her perch at the Allahdiyen Fire Watchtower.

Güler, who is known as “Ormancı Abla” (Forest Sister) to locals, first began planting seedlings in Salihli in 1982. In time, she joined the fire department and then began serving in the watchtower with her husband.

Her partner, however, died on the day he retired from the fire department. Despite the tragedy, Güler persevered, remaining on the job to oversee an area of 1,100 square kilometers.

Güler, who has now manned the watchtower for 12 years alone, keeps a watch over the forest with binoculars in one hand and a walky-talky in the other.

“My biggest helpers were my children while I was working here. I raised them here. I call my children when I’m bored. They accompany me,” she said, explaining how time passes when alone.

“If I came to this world again, I would do this job again. I love it so much,” she said.

But Güler’s biggest fear is not being able to see the fire – as well as careless forest users. “These days, the forests are full of picnics. That’s why I’m so nervous. Please be sensitive about this now,” she has warned people, exhorting people not to sacrifice decades of forest growth in a moment of carelessness.

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