Turkish wildfires threaten historic sites, ancient city of Assos

Turkey’s General Directorate of Forestry is battling a much higher number of wildfires this year compared with 2023; at this time last year, the country had recorded 513 forest fires, 665 other fires, and nearly 1500 total acres burned. As recently as June 24, those numbers have grown to 1093 forest fires, 1029 other fires, and nearly 8300 acres burned.

Aljazeera reported that at least 11 people were killed and dozens hurt as wildfires burned through villages in southeastern Turkey. Health Minister Fahrettin Koca reported the deaths from the overnight blaze between the cities of Diyarbakir and Mardin on Friday. Seventy-eight people were injured, with at least five people in intensive care units.

The elevated fire activity has resulted in increased aerial firefighting. The directorate has deployed aircraft over 4600 times thus far to fight the 2024 fires, and pilots have dropped over 16,000 tons of water. The total is a far cry from last year’s numbers of just 1100 deployments and only 3500 tons of water dropped.

Turkish fire at Assos

Turkey’s wildfire season has recently received national attention as a fire threatens the ancient city of Assos. The fire has burned 90 percent of the historic area, according to an Agence France-Presse report in the New Straits Times. The fire ripped through the ruins of the ancient port city of Assos, founded in the 8th century BCE near the Dardanelles Strait.

Ninety percent of the historical site of Assos was burned, said Mesut Bayram, mayor of Ayvacik district.

Assos, built on andesite rocks, is famous for its agora, theater, sarcophagi, and Athena Temple, according to Turkey Tour Organizer. “Also, this is where the world-famous thinker Aristotle founded a philosophy school.”

The fire was likely caused by a smoldering cigarette; xix helicopters, two planes, and around 35 engines are fighting the fire.

Air tanker crashes in Turkey with eight on board

Was being leased from Russia

9:29 a.m MDT August 14, 2021

A Be-200ES rolls out for the public while another makes a demonstration water drop. May 30, 2016. Beriev photo.

(This article was first published on Fire Aviation)

The Russian Defense Ministry has confirmed that a Beriev Be-200 air tanker crashed in Turkey Saturday. There was no immediate word on the condition of the five Russian army personnel and three Turkish officers that were on board.

A low resolution video (below) showed what may have been the aircraft dropping water then continuing toward what appeared to be rising terrain.

The aircraft was being leased from Russia and went down near Adana, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The Turkish state news agency Anadolu reported that rescuers who rushed to the scene had video footage showing plumes of smoke from the site.

Beriev began manufacturing the Be-200 in 2003. It is one of the few purpose-built air tankers, designed primarily for fighting wildland fires. The aircraft can land or take off on water or land, and the firefighting version can scoop water to refill its 3,000-gallon tanks. It can be converted to haul passengers or serve as a search and rescue aircraft, landing on water to retrieve victims if necessary.

Roughly 10 years ago U.S. Forest Service employees traveled to Taganrog, Russia the home base of the Beriev company, to conduct tests to determine if the Be-200 could be approved by the Interagency Airtanker Board (IAB). At the time, we heard unofficial reports that it met the criteria for water-scooping air tankers, but tests were not completed for dropping fire retardant.

Be-200ES air tanker
File photo of Be-200ES air tanker. Beriev photo.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.

Russian helicopter down in Turkey

Five people including three Russian firefighters were killed in the crash of a firefighting helicopter in the Koycegiz district of the Turkish province of Mugla. Radio Free Europe reported that the Russian helicopter was operated on the fire by Turkish and Russian crew members.

Turkey’s Forestry and Water Ministry says the helicopter crashed as it was headed into a valley fighting a fire near the village of Karacam. The Turkish Weekly reported that the helicopter hit a mountain slope and rolled down into a ravine. “The Kamov Ka-32 helicopter belonged to the Nefteyugansk Air Group,” said a Rosaviatsia spokesman. “The helicopter flew seven forest firefighting missions in the area through the day.”

A report by the Anatolia News Agency said the crash occurred near Otmanlar Village; the Russian-made Ka-32T helicopter crashed near the Kepez fire tower.

There were no survivors. A team of rescue workers is attempting to reach the crash site.