Raising fire prevention awareness: a vital initiative in Mount Lebanon schools

Students in two schools in Mount Lebanon learned about wildfires and the importance of prevention measures in an activity developed by EFIMED with the support of the Barcelona Provincial Council.

Students learning about fire.
Students from Lebanon learning about the three main elements necessary for fire: heat, fuel, and oxygen. Photo: Rhea Kahale.

In a significant move to enhance forest fire safety and prevention awareness, an engaging activity took place under the project entitled “Integrated Community Fire Resilience waste management Initiative in Mount Lebanon” at two schools in Mount Lebanon reaching 63 students. This initiative is part of a larger development cooperation project implemented by European Forest Institute Mediterranean Facility (EFIMED) with the support of the Barcelona Provincial Council (DIBA) aimed at increasing the resilience and capacity of local communities in forest management and fire prevention in targeted municipalities in Lebanon and Morocco.

The school activity aimed to educate students about the dual nature of fires, explaining that while some fires are beneficial, others can be immensely destructive for the ecosystem and biodiversity. The effort was geared towards equipping young minds with crucial knowledge and encouraging a culture of safety and responsibility from an early age.

Mrs. Lea Kharrat has explained to the students all aspects related to forest fire from causes and prevention such as the three main elements necessary for fire: heat, fuel, and oxygen. To illustrate these concepts, practical examples were provided:

  • Heat: Demonstrated through the ignition of a matchstick, showing how a small spark can start a fire.
  • Fuel: Explained with the use of paper and wood, emphasising how different materials can feed a fire.
  • Oxygen: Highlighted by covering a small flame with a glass jar, which eventually extinguished it due to the lack of oxygen.

This foundational knowledge helped students understand the process of forest fire, setting the stage for more complex discussions about forest fire prevention, awareness and safety. In addition, students learned that fire can be used as a management tool within forest management to protect certain wild habitats. Mrs. Lea highlighted the example of controlled fires, that are used in agriculture for clearing fields or in controlled burns to prevent larger wildfires, play beneficial roles in various ecosystems. However, the destructive potential of uncontrolled fires, particularly occuring within forest fires, was the main focus. The harms caused by such fires include loss of wildlife, destruction of habitats, and significant environmental and economic damage.

Lea Kharrat explaining what causes forest fires and how they can be prevented. Photo: Rhea Kahale.

This awareness activity aligns with the Lebanese national strategy for fire prevention, that includes early detection systems, public education campaigns, collaboration with local authorities and ensuring quick and effective response to fire outbreaks. Emphasising the importance of these strategies helped students understand the broader efforts being made to protect their communities and environments.

Special attention was given to fire safety precautions, particularly for young students who are members of local scout groups and often engage in activities like camping that involve fire. Key precautions included:

  • Choosing safe, clear areas away from vegetation for lighting fires (at least 5-10 m away from any vegetation cover).
  • Digging 10 cm and delimit the area with rocks.
  • Ensuring fires are completely extinguished before leaving the site.
  • Always having water or sand nearby to extinguish fires.

These practical tips are vital for preventing accidental fires and ensuring that outdoor activities are both enjoyable and safe.

One of the most critical aspects of the awareness activity was highlighting the individual’s role in fire prevention. Students were taught the importance of promptly informing authorities whenever they spot a fire and the related authority to contact. Additionally, they learned the necessity of obtaining permission from the municipality and civil defense before lighting any purposeful fires, such as those for clearing land or during festivals. This practice helps prevent unintended fire spread and ensures safety measures are in place and increase the preparedness of civil defense in such occasion by identifying hot spots.

One class participating in the forest fire prevention awareness session. Photo: Rhea Kahale.

The initiative underscored the importance of capacitating students for fire prevention. As the next generation, their understanding and adherence to fire safety practices are crucial. Educating them now ensures they will carry these practices forward, potentially teaching their own children and influencing their communities.

Lastly, the activity highlighted how informed students could influence their parents and communities. When children understand the importance of fire prevention and safety, they can effectively advocate for safe practices at home, thus extending the reach of these educational efforts beyond the school.

In conclusion, this fire prevention awareness activity was a comprehensive effort to instill vital safety knowledge in students. By understanding both the beneficial and harmful aspects of fire with a focus on forest fires, learning about the elements that fuel it, and adopting safety precautions, these young minds are better equipped to contribute to a safer and more informed community. The initiative not only prepares them for potential forest fire-related emergencies but also empowers them to be proactive guardians of their environment, ensuring a safer future for all.

Learn more about last year’s development cooperation activities implemented EFIMED with the support of DIBA!

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Rhea Kahale
Expert in Biodiversity Conservation and Management, working on setting prioritization schemes in terms of conservation decisions, including which species to conserve, locations to establish protected areas, maintaining genetic diversity, conservation actions and modalities to address specific threats.