A small fire burns next to a charred tree near the town of Meshref in Chouf on Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. (The Daily Star/Mohammed Zaatari)
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In the wake of devastating wildfires in Chouf, Aley and Metn, citizens and officials are questioning why three firefighting helicopters purchased for Lebanon in 2009 have been unmaintained and out of service for years.Former Interior Minister Ziad Baroud, who was in office when the helicopters were donated, also called for an investigation into the matter and told The Daily Star that the fires should be a wake-up call for the government to better equip Civil Defense operations.In 2009, the helicopters were purchased and donated to the government of Lebanon after a coalition of citizens raised about $15 million, Baroud said. The helicopters cost about $13.9 million, Baroud said, and the remaining funding that had been raised was donated to the Army. From 2009 to 2012, the helicopters were used "very efficiently" in fighting multiple fires, Baroud said.Baroud said that regardless, the helicopters should not have been left idle.
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