BEIRUT — The wildfire that broke out Saturday morning in a wooded area near Sinn, Akkar, in northern Lebanon continued to spread across neighboring areas on Sunday.
The military helicopter used to extinguish the fire stopped operating after nightfall on Saturday because it is unequipped for night missions, an army spokesperson told L'Orient Today. The wildfire continued to spread unchecked overnight until the helicopter returned to service Sunday morning.
The helicopter operates in the mountainous regions of Akkar that are difficult to reach by foot, while Civil Defense volunteers, along with environmental activists and local residents, continued to monitor the area at night to make sure the fire didn't reach homes.
The fire spread to neighboring forests in the village of Mrahate, near Akkar al-Atika, and the smoke covered the space of the woods in Doura and al-Qobayat, according to the Civil Defense.
By Sunday afternoon, the wind continued to spread the fire throughout the mountainside. Extinguishing operations had been going on for 36 hours, and the affected area had expanded to more than 40 hectares, according to activists on the scene.
A drone used by the Akkar Trail Association's rapid intervention team is helping to locate the most intense clusters of fires and how to reach them.
''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," caretaker Minister of Environment Nasser Yassin said in a Saturday statement.
''This is the first major wildfire this year,'' the minister said. He called for cooperation between municipalities, local administrations, residents and environmental associations to raise awareness of fire risks and prevent people from burning their garbage and land.
In a Saturday press release, the Ministry of Agriculture called on citizens to be extra cautious when passing through wooded areas and immediately report any signs of fire.
Lebanon already experienced wildfires earlier in 2023, including a March blaze in the north that first responders struggled to control.
The North and Akkar governates are home to large swaths of forested areas and are particularly prone to forest fires. Civil Defense teams and volunteer groups intervene to extinguish fires but often face equipment shortages due to Lebanon's economic crisis.
Reporting contributed by Michel Hallak