Volunteer Villager, Hero in the shadow of fire in Turkey

They took rakes, shovels and axes and set out for the mountains to help weary firefighters find their way into these difficult areas where Turkey’s fight against raging fires continues.

Residents of the rolling hills and pine forests that line Turkey’s Mediterranean and Aegean coasts have become shadow heroes of lands stricken by some of the deadliest and most devastating wildfires.

“Do you see this small fire there? We will immediately go and intervene to put it out”, proudly launches Mehmet Yesimoglu, a 50-year-old businessman from a village in the Mugla region (south-west), who is in a worrying fire. Indicates red-orange flames. “If we don’t take action, it will get bigger and then we will need helicopters or planes.”

The Turks watch with horror the devastation caused by the flames of the most fertile land in the country. Going up in smoke, these fields and valleys supported farmers and breeders.

At least eight people died and dozens of villages were evacuated. Regarding their property, few residents know what they will be able to find after the flames have passed.

Food and water were distributed from all over the country. So much so that the local authorities had to ask the Turks to stop donating: there was simply no place to store everything.

Many villagers chose to join the fire front rather than give up.

“You never know what to do until you’ve tried,” says Tanzer Bulat, another 30-year-old villager, who walks toward a cloud of smoke blocking the horizon.

A youth is rescued by firefighters and volunteers fighting a forest fire in the tourist area of ​​Mugla in Oren (Turkey), August 6, 2021 (AFP – Serdar Gurbuj)
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“We try to be logical above all. You see where the flames are going and you try to get them. We do what we can, even if we’re not professionals”, explains- He does.

– Knowledge of the field –

Some locals guide firefighters, showing them which direction to go and helping them find their way through winding roads, often getting lost in smoke by day and burning by fire at night.

A man stands by the side of the road, lighting a clear path with a headlamp attached to his helmet, guiding fire engines with a stick.

Other villagers help firefighters put out the massive fire on the flames on their shoulders.

“For bulldozers to pass, it was steep but I was able to show them a workable way to the top without any problems,” said Hayati Zorlu, 55, of a village in the Mugla region famous for its resorts. Tourist attractions bordering the Aegean Sea.

“It’s because I know the area and I’m alone here. There’s no one other than the mayor,” he says.

Firefighters, with the help of volunteers, fight a forest fire in Oren (Turkey) in the tourist area of ​​Mugla, August 6, 2021 (AFP - Serdar Gurbuz)

Firefighters, with the help of volunteers, fight a forest fire in Oren (Turkey) in the tourist area of ​​Mugla, August 6, 2021 (AFP – Serdar Gurbuz)

Hakan Karabulut, the head of the Istanbul Fire Brigade sent to the area, can no longer count the number of situations in which residents were able to provide assistance.

“One, they are our guides. Two, they show us where to go upstairs with the water. Three, they tell us where the fire is located. Four, they take care of logistics support, whether it’s food or drink Be for. And five, they help us put out the fire, ”he explains.

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There’s more, he emphasizes: “There are young people here who are hunters and know the terrain perfectly. When I meet one and I’m confident in the mastery of the place, I don’t. do not let go.”

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