Fire Continues to Spread in Borjomi Forest

The large fire which began on Sunday in the Borjomi region near Daba village, continues to spread despite the efforts of more than 500 Georgian firefighters and around 100 forest workers and volunteers, along with employees of Georgian ministries.

Our journalist Katie Davies was on location and reported that the fire has spread due to windy weather conditions, is moving in the direction of Borjomi and can be clearly seen from Sadgeri village on the Plateau above the town.

“The situation here is devastating. A cloud of yellow smoke covers the valley, rising up over Borjomi and towards Bakuriani, casting an eerie glow over the town and villages below. In Borjomi, I saw a light coating of ash on some cars and the air smells of wood smoke. Three helicopters were working- two Georgians and one Azeri. The pilots have been flying since morning. At present, the fire is no threat to inhabited areas," Katie said from her position above Sadgeri village. "The general consensus with the local population is that the fire started naturally as it was so high above Daba village".

As we understand, reinforcements are on their way from Turkey, though as the sun sets, works will have to be stopped until morning- and the fire is still bursting out in pockets. 

There are police, press and tourists abound, watching the huge columns of smoke. "And although the Georgian authorities emphasize the difficulties of reaching the blaze, the need for more equipment is clear- it really doesn't feel like it is happening fast enough," Katie told us. 

Each helicopter is capable of carrying five tonnes of water. Diggers have deepened one area of the Gujarula river near Tsagveri village to allow the helicopters to lower the waterbag before flying up around the smoke to dump the contents on the mount opposite Sadgeri and above Daba. "It seems like too little, too slow," Katie said.

Katie also reported she saw a large number of police below the blaze between Daba and Tsagveri, presumably where the blaze began. Flames were still clearly visible. The relief, it is clear, makes it impossible for the men to reach the fire.

"The authoritites have been heard saying they are unprepared for such a spread of fire- access roads and reservoirs are a must in any country with large areas of forest," Katie said.

The Prime Minister of Georgia, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, went to the site to monitor the fire extinguishing work. He thanked all involved for their efforts. 

“The Armenian side has offered their help and special crews are on their way to assist us. Besides sending two helicopters, Turkey will also send an anti-fire plane,” the PM said, thanking the neighboring countries for their help.

The President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili has also thanked all those involved in extinguishing the fire near the village of Daba. He especially wanted to thank the firefighters and rescuers, heroically fighting to ensure the fire is put out. He has also thanked Azerbaijan and Turkey for providing assistance.

“I would also like to thank our public, our volunteers; but I would also like to call on them not to act independently but offer their help to the staff working to extinguish the fire… Thank you all for being so organized at a social level,’ Margvelashvili remarked. 

As reported by the special staff of the Georgian government, [updated] 16 hectares of land have so far burned as a result of the fire.

“All corresponding agencies have been mobilized to put out the fire and prevent new pockets from igniting. The special staff, headed by PM Kvirikashvili, are working on a round-the-clock regime,” the statement of the special staff reads.

The area burning is the same area of forest- and the surrounding healthy trees -that was affected during the Georgia-Russia 2008 August War.

By Thea Morrison

Photos by Katie Davies

22 August 2017 14:58