On the fourth day of fighting a wildfire in southern Georgia’s Samtskhe–Javakheti region, hundreds of firefighters along with helicopters and fire engines have managed to prevent the fire from spreading. However, it will be long before the fire is fully extinguished, officials say, as the wind occasionally gets stronger. Meanwhile, small wildfires broke out on 22 August at four other locations in the country.
Eight helicopters, including two from Georgia, three from Azerbaijan, one from Belarus, and two from Turkey, along with a Turkish firefighting plane have been trying to contain the fire near the village of Daba in the Borjomi District since early morning of 23 August. Georgia had more than 300 firefighters on the ground, with an additional 95 from Azerbaijan and 70 from Armenia. Several units of Georgia’s Defence Ministry also joined.
— Giorgi Kvirikashvili (@KvirikashviliGi) August 23, 2017
As of the evening of 23 August, the fire stopped spreading and officials say there is no danger of it spreading to nearby settlements.
By 17:00, Defence Minister Levan Izoria said ‘the situation has improved compared to previous days’, but reported of strong wind in Borjomi as well. A small fire broke out by 16:00 in a place where the fire was previously contained.
According to the Crisis Management Council, a special body created to handle the disaster, the fire has devastated ‘tens of hectares of land’, but no precise number was given.
‘The loss is great, but let us not give up. We will restore our environment, our forest, together, like we fought the disaster’, Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili said on 23 August in Borjomi. He proposed to create a foundation, which, ‘with the participation of community and friends’ will contribute to restoring the local environment. Several Georgian companies offered help in doing so.
The fire broke near Borjomi’s village of Daba on 20 August. Later, due to strong wind and alleged insufficient mobilisation of firefighting units, it transformed into what may be the largest wildfire in Georgia’s recent history.
[For details, see: Hundreds fight forest fire in southern Georgia]
Russia offered to help as well, but the prime minister said that ‘in given circumstances, there was no need for help from Russia’. US Ambassador to Georgia Ian Kelly said the United States was ready to assist as well.
By midday, a 20-litre petrol can was found in the Borjomi forest. The authorities have launched an investigation.
According to InterPressNews, after journalists asked the Interior Minister Giorgi Mghebrishvili whether a possibility of diversion was taken into consideration, he responded: ‘I, as a policeman, do not exclude anything. We are considering all versions of events’.
Mamuka Mdinaredze, head of the ruling Georgian Dream party, said it would be irresponsible to exclude any possibilities, yet ‘talking about a diversion is premature’.
Fire in four other locations
According to the Interior Ministry, a fire broke out on 22 August in a forest in Shida Kartli’s Ateni gorge near the city of Gori. The fire spread to 2 hectares, but was soon contained by roughly 50 firefighters, lifeguards, and 250 soldiers from the Defence Ministry of Georgia.
A fire devastated half a hectare of a field in the Lagodekhi District of eastern Georgia’s Kakheti Region. Two fire brigades contained the fire.
Roughly two hectares of land went ablaze on a road to Shatili in northeast Georgia’s historic Khevsureti region, Netgazeti reported.
Fire broke out near a prison in Gldani district of Tbilisi in the evening of 22 August. It devastated half a hectare of fields.
No casualties were reported.