BEIRUT: Civil Defense personnel battled to put out a huge brush fire that broke out midday Friday in the highlands of Jeita, 20 kilometers north of Beirut, the state-run National News Agency said.
The fire billowed over the outskirts of St. Elias Monastery in Jeita, the NNA reported.
Weather forecasts had warned that the risk of brush fires would remain high in mountainous regions of Lebanon throughout Friday and Saturday due to warm temperatures.
Temperatures in coastal areas will range from 20 to 36 degrees Saturday, according to the Meteorological Department at Rafik Hariri International Airport. They are expected to be between 22 and 32 degrees in mountainous areas, 16 and 28 degrees in The Cedars and between 18 and 39 degrees inland.
The Lebanese Army worked with Civil Defense teams to extinguish brush fires that broke out in the Jbeil towns of Mastita and Monsef Thursday, a military statement said Friday.
The statement said the fires, which broke out again Friday, had destroyed more than 8 acres of fruit trees and grassland.
Further fires could also strike Lebanon over the weekend, according to one expert.
“Anywhere at 2,000 meters [altitude] or below in Mount Lebanon is at high risk,” said Joseph Bechara, the wildfire management program coordinator for the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative.
Bechara added that municipalities, Civil Defense and citizens had to be prepared, because wildfires could emerge at any time.
“If fires are identified within the first 20 minutes they will not spread wildly but after the first 20 minutes it is very hard to control it,” Bechara told The Daily Star. “Some areas are more than 20 minutes away from the Civil Defense.”
Bechara said fires were spreading more than in the past because many wooded areas were now abandoned.