April 1, 2023

By Ahmet Abdulaziz ….

Right now the sporadic fire in the Antalya area is taking its toll. The fire is fast eating up the forests and the natural beauty of the area. This is not all though, the fire has already started affecting the daily lives of the people in the area. Antalya, and the surrounding areas, known as the paradise for tourists, are now being directly hit by all that’s going on there. Indeed, with temperatures so high when anything can burn, due to any simple excuse, the chances of torching the trees deliberately also cannot be ruled out.

Looking at the photographs and chasing the news of the ongoing Antalya fire, I recalled the time when a huge fire had taken over a big part of the Five Finger mountain range. That was a terrible period that people in the TRNC had witnessed and felt the brunt. Here I would like to share some personal experiences of those days.

More than quarter of a century has passed, the year was 1995, I had just moved  to Girne  from Lefkoşa, after starting a new job there. My office was very near to the main roundabout of Girne, where the road from Lefkoşa enters the city. The Five Finger mountains were very near to where my office was located. The house where we had recently moved to was at a walking difference from there.

A family guest was coming from Pakistan, the very evening when the fire had started. Everything was calm and fine at Five Finger mountains when I passed through to go to Ercan airport in the evening. The flight was a bit late, and we had had to wait for some time at the airport.

It was perhaps around nine or ten pm when we first spotted some fire on the mountain while we were returning from Ercan airport. We were coming towards Boğaz from Lefkoşa. As we reached the bottom of the mountains, the fire was very visible. Fire brigades were rushing there, and people had started taking steps to meet the challenge.

As I drove further up the road and passed through the point where there is a picnic area on the downhill side and St. Hilarion on the other, there was a fire on the upper side of the mountains, by the road that we were driving through. At some point the fire had moved to the lower part of the mountain, after crossing the road. The fire brigades were everywhere.

The police had started closing the road, and I was perhaps the last one who was allowed to go through. There was no other vehicle behind my car, as the police had stopped all traffic on the road. As I moved ahead, some people, most probably the firefighters waved me to stop, but I had already made up my mind to cross that part of the road as quickly as could. I had already understood, that if I stopped at that point I might not be able to reach my destination that night. My family in Girne was waiting for me. The fire was still on the southern side of the mountain facing Lefkoşa, so the people in Girne were not in a position to see the fire.

As I moved on there was fire on both sides of the road. The firefighters of the last fire brigade tried to stop me, but I sped through the road, with fire on both sides. That was a small part of about 100 meters, where we could feel the heat, as there was fire everywhere on both sides of the road. There was a great chance of a burning tree falling on the road, but I had already committed myself to go through that patch of 100 meters.

I still remember the facial expressions of our guest, while we passed through that area. He was very shocked, and somewhat frightened. Inside myself, I too was frightened, but there was no way out, I had to go through. There was no turning back for me.

I accelerated my car and weaved through the fire and just a few minutes later I crossed through that dangerous part of the road. We took a deep breath as we entered the main area, and left the fire behind us. The firefighters had started their operation upward, from the side of Girne. There was no traffic except police cars and fire engines. Mine was the only vehicle on the road.

A few minutes later we arrived home. Our guest had returned back to his senses, and I had too. Still now, after a lapse of over a quarter of a century, whenever I see any news about mountain fire, in my mind I re-live the whole incident. I wish never to face such a situation again in my life.

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