Over 200 ha area of unique juniper forest has burnt down in Artavan gorge due to a wide-scale fire. These data are preliminary, which have been received as a result of the shooting carried out by WWF Armenia working group. According to their data, as of 12 August, the fire has included a total area of 650 ha, while as of 14 August, the fire hasn't been extinguished yet, just the opposite, there are new fire hot spots.
In his interview with EcoLur WWF Armenia Director Karen Manvelyan commented on this situation, 'The fire has caused huge damage to juniper forests. The initial assessment of the fire shows that 202 ha of juniper forest has been exposed to fire, while it still continues. These forests grow very slowly and their recovery is a complicated process. The forest comprised 200-year-old and even 500- year-old trees,' Manvelyan said.
The jupiter forests burn like a torch, as they produce volatile oils, plus extremely dry weather and, as a result, when the fire brigades arrived, the fire had already spread within a huge territory. Now tractors are operating, which are digging trenches so as to isolate fire. Unfortunately, a strong wind started blowing, which transferred fire to other territories and now the excavators are digging out new trenches.
'Union for Preservation of Armenian Birds' NGO President Mamikon Ghasabyan added, 'We saw birds, which were flying near the fire borderline, which means their prey was there – rodents, snakes, and lizards. Artavan Gorge is unique: definitely, the big animals can run away from the fire, but the fire eliminated mainly the invertebrates, such as rodents, snakes, and lizards.''
Karen Manvelyan thinks that all knew about the fire-prone situation and adequate measures should have been taken, 'Shifts in the fire-prone places should be set and supervision should be enhanced. While now the areas having suffered from the fire need recovery, which will require huge human and financial resources. Efforts should be joined to recover the forest, and, naturally, we should work with the locals. Huge fines are imposed for a felled down tree, but what kind of fine may be imposed, if a whole forest burns down because of one match or unextinguished cigarette?'
18:00 August 14, 2017