Turkey pays tribute to a firefighter who died while fighting against a forest fire that broke out in the İçmeler neighborhood in the southwestern province of Muğla’s Marmaris district, as officials offer to plant a memorial forest in his name.
For reasons unknown, fires broke out in forestland close to hotels and settlements in İçmeler during the early hours of June 27.
A total of 350 forest workers, 10 firefighting helicopters and 20 water tankers battled flames that the wind helped spread in a short time over the region.
Helicopters dropped some 9,600 liters of water on the forest in 320 sorties. Forest workers were able to take control of the fire after eight hours of strenuous work.
However, one forest worker died while battling forest fires that burnt 100 hectares of land into ashes. According to Muğla Regional Directorate of Forestry, the forest worker who lost his life was 34-year-old Görkem Hasdemir.
A funeral was held at noon on June 28 with his workmates carrying his coffin covered with a Turkish flag, calling him a “hero” and “martyr.”
Mehmet Oktay, the mayor of Marmaris, said Hasdemir died while fighting for his country, adding, “We will propose to plant a memorial forest on the land he fought to put the fire out.”
Local politicians supported the offer saying, “The area will never be zoned for housing and will be named after the forest worker.”
Hasdemir, a father of two, was living in Köyceğiz, another neighborhood of the province, as a carpenter, but was working as a forest worker during the summers for the last 10 years.
According to a relative, Hasdemir “loved forests and his country so much.”
“I once asked, ‘Why do you work at the forests when you already have a job?’ He said, ‘Protecting forests means protecting the country. We protect the forests like the police and gendarmerie protect the country,” Hasdemir’s relative told the Demirören News Agency.
“I am really proud of him,” Hasdemir’s father-in-law said while expressing his love for him.
The action taken by the first responders, as Hasdemir was one of them, was crucial as they were able to check the spread of fires just 50 meters away from a hotel’s aboveground LPG storage tank, officials said.
If the fires reached the LPG tank, “it could have caused a disaster,” some locals said.
Just hours later from the incident, another fire breakout was reported in the province of Muğla’s Ula district.
Two houses were evacuated as a fire broke out due to a barbecue in the forest.
The first responders for the Ula fire were also the same team that extinguished the fire in the İçmeler neighborhood.
“Nobody was hurt. But there could have been a tragedy,” Özay Türkler, the mayor of Ula, told national broadcaster CNN Türk on June 28.
Meanwhile, some 100 hectares of land turned into ashes in the eastern province of Bingöl. It took three days for firefighters to control the fire.
Some 45 firefighters in the region fought the fire that broke out in the villages of Güzeldere and Dedbağı on June 25 and was put out late on June 28.
Hurriyet Daily News