MOROCCO: Fire Safety Campaigns Aim to Protect Popular Kenitra Forest from Devastating Summer Fires

The Sakina Forest, located just outside Kenitra, 45 kilometers north of Rabat, has long been a favorite spot for families seeking refuge from the summer heat. Stretching over 150 hectares, the forest attracts between 5,000 and 10,000 visitors daily, many of whom come to enjoy barbecues and picnics under the trees.

However, this beloved recreational area faces significant risks due to the open fires lit by visitors, which have become a source of concern for park rangers and local authorities. Park ranger Ahmed Araba explains the primary challenge: “The first problem we face in this urban park is fire, especially during the summer season. First-time visitors often bring raw food to cook, digging holes and lighting fires, which threaten the trees.”

In response to these dangers, the National Agency for Water and Forestry (ANEF) has been actively promoting fire safety awareness among park visitors. Moroccan forests are particularly vulnerable during the summer due to high temperatures, low humidity, and dry winds. A single moment of carelessness can spark a blaze capable of destroying vast forest areas.

To combat this threat, firefighters, park rangers, and ANEF staff engage with visitors, distributing leaflets and educating them on fire prevention. The campaign appears to be making an impact. Visitor Said Tawil acknowledges the risk of lighting fires near tree trunks and commits to advising others against it. Another visitor, Youssef El Guerch, takes a different approach by bringing pre-cooked food to avoid any fire hazards altogether.

Statistics from ANEF reveal the urgency of these efforts. In 2023, Morocco recorded 466 forest fires affecting 6,426 hectares, a significant decrease from the 22,760 hectares burned in the previous year. Climate expert Mostafa Salah Benramel, chairman of the Minarets Ecological Association for Climate and Development, points to extreme weather patterns, influenced by the El Niño phenomenon, as a contributing factor to the dry conditions exacerbating the fire risk.

Despite these challenges, Morocco has made significant strides in wildfire management. Major Bilal El Yaacoubi, Head of Kenitra Zone for Forestry Development, highlights the use of advanced technology and accumulated experience in combating forest fires. “We rely on sophisticated means and methods, including drones and a fleet of Canadair planes, to pinpoint fire sources and manage blazes effectively,” he says. The combination of technology, training, and experience has been crucial in reducing the impact of forest fires.

For 2024, ANEF has allocated a budget of 153 million dirhams for fire prevention and control measures. This funding supports a comprehensive approach, including expanding Morocco’s fleet of specialized Canadair firefighting aircraft to seven, with an eighth expected to arrive next year.

Through these concerted efforts, Morocco aims to safeguard its forests, ensuring that places like the Sakina Forest remain safe and enjoyable for future generations.

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