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Arson suspected in Jerash forest fire

By Hana Namrouqa - May 19,2015 - Last updated at May 19,2015

AMMAN — Authorities are investigating a fire that erupted on Monday afternoon in Jerash Governorate’s Burma District, around 48km north of Amman, officials said on Tuesday.

The fire, which started at 2pm and was extinguished five hours later, destroyed 100-120 dunums of forest trees and dry grass, and is suspected to be an act of arson, according to Eid Zu’bi, director of the Agriculture Ministry’s forestry department.

“The rough topography of the area and the fact that forest beds are covered with dried grass accelerated the spread of the fire, which destroyed up to 30-40 Aleppo pines and burned the branches of 80-100 oak trees,” Zu’bi told The Jordan Times.

The forestry official expected the oak trees to survive the fire, noting that the flames only reached the leaves and branches of the centennial trees.

Zu’bi said the fire is most likely an act of arson, underscoring that security forces are investigating the incident and have leads to identify the suspects.

He noted the Civil Defence Department (CDD) arrived at the site of the fire five minutes after it was reported, and the flames were extinguished at 4pm, but re-ignited an hour later.

According to a source at the department, an illegal logger who was recently caught chopping down forest trees deliberately started the fire.

“Eyewitnesses saw two people leaving the site of the fire at the time it started,” the source told The Jordan Times.

A Civil Defence Department (CDD) statement e-mailed to The Jordan Times said fire engines from the CDD’s directorates in Jerash and Ajloun, as well as the rescue and support directorate of the northern region, participated in putting out the flames.

“The fire-fighting operation took over five hours due to the area’s rough terrain, which hindered  fire engines from reaching the site, and also because brisk winds accelerated the spread of the blaze and also helped rekindle the flames,” the CDD said in the statement.

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