More than 800 dunums of centennial forest trees in Jerash’s Thaghret Asfour burned

By Hana Namrouqa – May 31,2019

AMMAN — Hundreds of firefighters and security personnel from different state agencies on Thursday battled the blaze that burned through wooded mountains in Jerash Governorate, in what authorities described as the country’s biggest wildfire ever.

Early hours Friday, authorities announced that the massive wildfire was contained.

More than 800 dunums of centennial forest trees in Jerash’s Thaghret Asfour were burned in the wildfire, according to authorities, which did not report any injuries.

Dozens of fire engines and fire-fighting machineries were dispatched from all of the Civil Defence Department’s (CDD) directorates in the northern and the central regions, while two helicopters from the Royal Jordanian Air Force participated in putting out the fire, a CDD officer at the department’s headquarters in Amman said, adding that personnel and machineries from the Public Security Department, the Gendarmerie, the ministries of agriculture and water also participated in putting out the flames.

The two helicopters were going back and forth between King Talal Dam, south of Jerash, and Thaghret Asfour, north of Jerash, shuttling water to extinguish the flames, especially on the top of the mountains where neither fire engines, nor personnel were able to reach, according to CDD officials in Jerash and local residents.

“We started battling the flames at 11:30am. We managed to extinguish 90 per cent of the burning terrain,” another CDD officer in Jerash told The Jordan Times by Thursday evening.

“This is a terrible day for Jerash. Three wildfires erupted today, but this, in Thaghret Asfour, is the worst we ever faced,” the officer said.

The CDD did not identify the source of the wildfire, but it did not rule out arson “with the aim of logging after the fire is extinguished”.

The topography of Thaghret Asfour, the thickness of the forest, the high temperatures and the thick and high grass — following an excellent rainy season — all contributed to making the wildfire the “biggest” the country’s forests ever faced, according to CDD officials and an environment activist.

Hala Murad, president of the Jerash-based Dibbeen Association for Environmental Development, said that a group of environmental activists and volunteers headed to the site to assist authorities.

“Roads to Thaghret Asfour were all blocked. There is a heavy presence of security, army and government personnel and machineries at the site. The fire is beyond massive and helicopters are hovering over the area and spraying water over the burning mountains,” Murad told The Jordan Times from a place near the site of the fire.

She mourned the “thousands of oak, Aleppo pine and Greek juniper trees which burned in the fire”.

“This is, indeed, a sad day for Jerash. People here angry at the loss of their forest,” Murad said.

The green cover in Thaghret Asfour exceeds 85 per cent of the total terrain, she said, noting that it is home to different indigenous flora and fauna species.