BEIRUT — Hot dry winds probably played a role in a huge wildfire that broke out Saturday morning in a wooded area near Sinn, Akkar, North Lebanon, then spread to neighboring forests in the village of Mrahate, near Akkar al-Atika, L'Orient Today's correspondent reported.
According to caretaker Minister of Environment Nasser Yassin, it is ''the first big wildfire of the season.''
Civil Defense volunteers, along with environmental activists and local residents, were busy battling the blaze, which rescue teams are describing as "out of control." It started at the bottom of a valley before spreading to the top of a hill and nearby pine and oak forests, bringing the flames closer to inhabited areas.
"Due to the harshness of the terrain and the uncontrollable nature of the fire," Minister Yassin said in a statement, he requested help from the Lebanese army, which quickly mobilized helicopters to assist firefighters and volunteers, "as the flames continue to spread in several locations, [including] inhabited areas."
Civil Defense installed a makeshift water source to supply the helicopters with water, as steep terrain makes it difficult for fire trucks access the area.
Activists from the environmental organization Akkar Trail called on volunteers to assist the firefighters on the scene.
Rescue teams are facing great difficulties in controlling the fire, our correspondent reported.
Area residents appealed to the army to mobilize more resources to intensify firefighting operations before nightfall, which will force firefighters to pause their efforts, and possibly allow the fire to spread to nearby woods in Doura and al-Qobayat.
''We are going to ask the courts to open a judicial inquiry and the Civil Defense and security forces to investigate ... the causes of the fire," Yassin announced.
''This is the first major wildfire this year,'' the minister said, calling for the cooperation of municipalities, local administrations, residents and environmental and local associations to raise awareness of fire risks and prevent people from burning their garbage and land."
In a press release, the Ministry of Agriculture also called on citizens to be extra cautious when passing through wooded areas, and to report immediately any signs of fire .