This afternoon, smoke from multiple fires billowed out of a green valley in Mtaileb, a hillside Beirut suburb, for four hours. The fire department refused to come.
The first set of fires came from a construction site:
Set by construction workers living on the site of multimillion dollar apartments:
The second pair of fires was set in the nearby valley across the street:
Paint cans and plastic containers were among the items burning:
Sending plumes of smoke into apartments next door:
And filling the entire valley neighborhood with a toxic smell begining around 1PM, not long after the picture above was taken.
I decided to call to the fire department, known here as Civil Defense, at the hotline “125”
Me: “There are four fires in the valley. They seem to be burning garbage.”
Operator: “Okay, thank you.”
Me: “Don’t you want the address?”
Operator: “No. We don’t put out garbage fires. We only put out building fires.”
Me: “So nothing can be done?”
Operator: Pause. .. (second operator in the background says “hang up, this guy is wasting your time.)
Three hours later, around 5PM, the fires continue to burn with little change, and the air continues to be filled with foul smoke. As you can see, sun is going down in this picture as opposed to above shot. But the fire is unchanged:
I decided to call 125 again. The same operator answered and recognized my voice.
Operator:”Yes we know about the fire. I told you before we can’t do anything.”
Me: “Now the grass is burning too. Next will be the trees. How many hours should we wait till it burns the whole valley?”
Operator: (Sighing) “Okay we’ll have someone call you.”
Then the regional fire department calls me back.
Fireman: “Oh yes we know that area. It happens a lot there. We went down there once and the guys are just cleaning their garbage.”
Me: “Okay so you are saying you don’t respond to garbage fire.”
Fireman: “No, that’s not our job. We don’t have time for that. It’s not a danger. They are just cleaning.”
Me: “But its a fire in the forest?”
Fireman: “Is it a fire or is it garbage?
Me: “Fine. Sorry I wasted your time. I guess all I can do is upload my pictures to the internet and say Civil Defense does not handle these type of fires.
Firman: “Are you threatening me? (begins yelling)
Me: “No, I’m just repeating what you told me.”
Fireman: (angry now) “Give me directions!”
Twenty minutes later a truck finally arrived to put out the fires…
four hours of burning fire, three phone calls and one angry fireman later.