On September 3, U.S. Ambassador David Hale delivered a fire truck and firefighting tools to the Municipality of Ras El Metn in a ceremony held in the forest of Deir El Haref, Ras El Metn. Under the patronage and presence of the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Akram Chohayeb, the ceremony was attended by municipal leaders, Ras El Metn community and other neighboring communities, scouts, and fire squad volunteers. The donation is made available through the Lebanon Reforestation Initiative (LRI), a program funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the United States Forest Service (USFS).
Aside from Ras El Metn, nine other neighboring villages are expected to benefit from this donation. The Ford fire truck is a medium sized truck specially designed for Lebanon, which will give the firefighting volunteer unit in Ras El Metn access to areas difficult to reach no matter how narrow and bumpy are the roads leading to the fire location. The fire truck will allow for initial response within the first twenty minutes after a fire breaks out, the period of time during which, studies have shown, it is still relatively easy to control the fire before it spreads, expands, and becomes more difficult to extinguish.
It is noteworthy that Ras El Metn has been long known for its rich forests and production of pine nuts, or what the locals prefer to call “white gold”. Hence, these efforts aimed at preserving and growing the forest and protecting it from fire are not new to the residents of the town and neighboring villages. Pine nut production is among the region’s traditional industries and actually sustains many households since ancient times. This has prompted LRI to build the capacities of the local community and provide training to the volunteer unit in the town. This grant actually falls under the National Strategy for Forest Fire Management in Lebanon and in this context, Mr. Issam Makarem, head of the Municipality of Ras El Metn, stressed on the importance of this grant for the protection of the town’s forests and environmental treasure.
For his part, US Ambassador, Hale, pointed out that, “We proudly support communities, as well as the Lebanese Armed Forces and Civil Defense, as they protect Lebanon’s forests from wildfires. Through our partnerships, we provide first responder training, equipment, and trucks to firefighters. We collaborate with nongovernmental organizations, youth groups, and municipalities. That collaboration has led to an acceleration of the pace and scale of forest restoration and built more effective fire-response coordination. We have planted - and are sustaining - half a million trees throughout Lebanon. We created jobs for more than 400 rural men and women. More importantly, we helped instill a culture of reforestation, and hundreds of Lebanese are rallying to build a greener future for Lebanon.”
The Ras El Metn ceremony concluded with Ambassador Hale delivering the truck key to Mr. Issam Makarem, head of the Municipality of Ras El Metn.