BYURAKAN, Armenia (RFE/RL) — Hundreds of firefighters, forestry workers, and civilians battled a massive wildfire in central Armenia for the fourth consecutive day on September 6.
The fire raged in a partly wooded area near Byurakan, a village 35 kilometers northwest of Yerevan. It is located on the southern slope of Mount Aragats, the highest in the country.
Residents of Byurakan and nearby communities as well as more than a hundred soldiers and a military helicopter joined the firefighting efforts this week. As was the case during two other major wildfires that erupted in other parts of the country last month, rocky terrain made it practically impossible for the Armenian Ministry of Emergency Situations to deploy heavy fire engines near the blaze.
Thick plumes of white smoke continued to rise above the burning pastures, trees, and bushes around Byurakan on Wednesday afternoon.
“We have modern fire engines but they can’t approach such terrain,” complained the head of the ministry’s Civil Defense Department, Artak Nahapetian. He said his emergency teams are only able to use some of their outdated Soviet-made machinery.
“As of noon, there was no active fire in this particular area, there were only small smoldering sources,” Nahapetian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) at the scene. “But as you can see, 200-300 square meters of forest is burning down there and we are doing everything to contain it.”
The official estimated that the fire has burned 200 hectares of woodland and grass since erupting on Sunday.
The authorities similarly struggled to extinguish the August wildfires that broke out in the Vayots Dzor province and the Khosrov Forest State Reserve southeast of Yerevan in the space of two days. They followed weeks of unusually high temperatures that have continued into this month.
The Khosrov blaze was particularly serious. It was put out with the help of a heavy water-dropping aircraft sent by the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations at the Armenian government’s request.