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There are two major types of fires industrial or urban fires and forest fires. The most common reasons behind urban fires are gas or chemical leakages, cigarettes, candles, heating units, and electrical circuits. Forest fires are encouraged by indirect causes such as lack of awareness, changes in land use practices and scattered responsibilities among concerned bodies.

Forest Fires

The green cover in Lebanon is considered a unique value within the arid area of the Eastern Mediterranean. Forest areas cover around 13% of Lebanon’s total area; however it used to cover around 35% in the 1965-1969. Lebanese forest areas are diverse sources of income; especially pine forests which constitute significant economic resources for the Lebanese in general and rural communities in particular. Lebanon has a diverse plant cover suitable for beekeeping and its forests provide primary sources of wood products such as timber and coal, in addition to non-wood products such as medicinal and aromatic plants. Forests of Lebanon face many threats such as illegal tree logging, illegal quarrying, abusive grazing, and unplanned urban expansion. Based on studies and statistics, forest fires remain a primary factor for forest degradation.

Precautions before fire occurrence

• Raise awareness on forest fires risks among the family members.
• Develop plans for rapid intervention.
• Clear main and agricultural road sides and lands in proximity to forests and inhabited areas from excess vegetation
• Avoid burning vegetation remnants and agricultural residues especially during the fire season (between May and November).
• Be vigilant of burning landfills since they might cause fires, especially if close to forests
• Regularly clean roof and gutters.
• Clear items that will burn from around the house, including wood piles, lawn furniture, barbecue grills, tarp coverings, etc. Move them outside of your defensible space. Measures to take during fires
• Inform the civil defense and the municipalities when a fire is detected
• Facilitating access to water outlets for firefighting personnel and volunteers
• Arrange temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area in case you need to evacuate.
• Wear protective clothing when outside
• Close all doors inside the house to prevent draft.

What to do after fires

• Watch the burnt area for at least 24 hours to ensure the fire has been totally suppressed
• Maintain equipment and tools used during fire suppression.
• If you detect heat or smoke when entering a damaged building, evacuate immediately.
• Wear leather gloves and heavy soled shoes to protect hands and feet.
• Discard any food that has been exposed to heat, smoke.

Urban Fires

The most common reasons behind urban fires are gas or chemical leakages, cigarettes, candles, heating units, and electrical circuits. Above all, negligence, lack of awareness and noncompliance with safety rules and regulations remain the main factors behind such incidents.

Precautions before fire occurrence

• Keeping matches away from the children’s hands
• Equipping houses and factories with water sprinklers and fire extinguishers that automatically work upon smoke detection and ensure their periodic maintenance
• Training the family members on safety plans and procedures
• Ensuring safe storage of flammable materials outside homes and factories
• Maintenance and upkeep of all heating and cooling appliances
• Make sure to put out cigarettes and avoid smoking in bed
• Wear tight cotton clothes while playing fire crackers.
• Always keep a bucket of water and sand ready.

Measures to take during fires

• Call the fire fighting department (civil defense) or municipality to inform them about fire the soonest possible.
• If fire is outside your home, make sure windows and doors are well closed to avoid fire creeping inside your home. Do the same in case fire is inside to cut off oxygen supplies.
• If the fire is small, put it out immediately: Cover it with a wet towel/blanket or pour sand on it.
• If it seems to be a big fire, sound an alarm and alert everyone in your premises.
• Escape first and then call for help.
• Exit by stairs instead of elevators in case of fire.
• Ensure everyone’s safe, check for injuries and seek medical treatment.

What to do after fires

• Check yourself for injuries and get first aid if necessary
• Help people who need help. If someone was caught by fire, cool the burn with water as long as possible.
• Do not go sightseeing. Beware of hotspots as they can flare up again.
• Damaged infrastructure may continue to collapse.
• If the house is too badly damaged to live in, board up openings to discourage trespassers and arrange security patrols to protect it from burglary.
• Check with the fire department to make sure your residence is safe to enter. Be watchful of any structural damage caused by the fire.
• Try to locate valuable documents and records.
• If you leave your home, contact the local police department to let them know the site will be unoccupied.
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