Updated: Oct 18, 2021
Fires have been devastating various parts of the world, from California to the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Now, massive forest fires are burning Lebanon, Israel, and the war-torn country, Syria. The wildfires erupted as unusual heat waves hit all three countries, with rising temperatures and high winds contributing to the spread.
Since Thursday, Oct. 8, over 100 fires in Lebanon and thousands have been evacuated. These fires came after Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, was rocked by an ammonium nitrate blast that killed over 200 people and injured around 6,500 others in August of this year. Around the same time last year, high temperatures and dry winds caused fires to spread over extensive forests and residential areas. A series of 100 fires killed one volunteer firefighter and forced residents to evacuate their homes. Some of the fires have also detonated landmines along the Lebanon-Israeli border, near Mount Lebanon.
The fires in Lebanon last year caused the country’s citizens to rally on the streets. They asked why the Lebanese government had failed to react efficiently to contain the wildfires. With limited technical capability, civilians and firefighters got a handle on the major fires, but millions of Lebanese citizens nonetheless went to the streets to demand the government’s resignation. This led to four ministers resigning from their position in the government. Eventually, these protests became a long demonstration that lasted months against the inept and corrupt ruling class.
In Syria, 78 fires have burned hundreds of acres in the coastal countryside. Syria’s Agricultural Minister, Mohammed Hassan Qatana, said that Syria witnessed the largest number of fires in a single day on Thursday. Latakia’s fire brigade said they were facing the most extensive series of fires the province has seen in years.
Three people from the province of Latakia have died due to the fires, and 70 people from the area were hospitalized due to difficulty breathing. These fires happen to be devastating Syria for the second time in the span of a few months while the nation faces a shortage of fuel and frequent power cuts. The flames will likely cause a financial crisis in a country with an already decimated economy due to the war that killed around 380,00 people.
Israel’s fires have been caused by the same heat waves that affected Syria and Lebanon. The country is facing 250 large fires, 13 of which are significant. As of right now, the wildfires have burned over 741 acres. Thousands were evacuated, but fortunately, there have been no deaths yet, just minor breathing problems.
Similar to Lebanon, Israel had a series of wildfires in November of 2016 after two months of drought. While a few of the fires that terrorized the country occurred naturally, 90% of them were the result of arson attacks. At the time, the firefighters were fighting 1,773 fires, 39 of which needed more than ten crews. The country was at a point where they were desperate for assistance and asked for help from their allies. Many Middle Eastern countries came to their aid by sending flights and water tanks, but Cyprus, Greece, and Croatia sent countless men and crews to extinguish the blazes.
Through Teen Lenses: Have you heard about the wildfires in Syria, Lebanon, and Israel? Do you believe that many of the fires occurring around the world are due to climate change, and if so, do you think that these countries could have taken better precautionary measures?
“I have not heard about the wildfires, and I haven’t seen much news coverage about them. While many fires are started by people, climate change is making them much more severe and harder to control. It also creates conditions that put environments at a higher risk for wildfires. I think the countries affected by these fires could have taken better precautionary measures, and all countries should take steps to combat climate change as a whole. It’s important that countries enact laws and plans to reduce climate change by reducing carbon emissions and fossil fuel burning.” Michelle Qiu, 15, Sophomore, Oakton High School, Vienna, Virginia
“I have not heard of the wildfires in Syria, Lebanon, and Palestine. I do believe that fires occurring around the world are due to climate change. The countries that are being affected definitely could have taken better precautionary measures; however, I think it should not be the precautions of the country affected itself. Countries that currently emit the highest number of carbon emissions should be held accountable by countries affected by wildfires or other climate disasters for their contribution to the climate crisis.” Sabirah Mahmud, 17, Senior, Academy at Palumbo, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
“Yes, I heard about the wildfires, and I think they are starting due to climate change, but no, I don’t think those countries could have taken better precautionary measures because they are developing countries who are dealing with a lot of wars. Many of their people are in poverty, and their education system isn’t the greatest; they need outside help. It’s the same with California and their wildfires; there isn’t much they could do to prevent it because to fix climate change, big corporations need to start getting rid of their toxic waste and stop burning fossil fuels. One state, a group of people, or a small country, can’t do much to help prevent things if everyone isn’t in it together.” Marwa Arabi, 17, Senior, Chantilly High School, Chantilly, Virginia