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Neighbors Help Georgia Fight Wildfire In National Park


TBILISI -- Georgia is getting help from neighboring countries to fight a wildfire that doubled in size in a day.

Prime Minister Girogi Kvirikashvili said on August 22 that two helicopters from Turkey and one from Azerbaijan joined two Georgian helicopters battling the blaze in Borjomi-Kharagauli National Park.

Kvirikashvili also said a specially equipped firefighting plane was expected to arrive from Turkey and crews of firefighters were on their way from Armenia.

Kvirikashvili added that Russia also offered its help but Tbilisi refused to accept it as "there is no need for that at the moment."

Relations between Georgia and Russia, which fought a five-day war in 2008 over separatist regions in Georgia that are supported by Moscow, remain tense.

The wildfire that broke out on August 20 has expanded to at least 12 hectares, National Forestry Agency chief Tornike Gvazava said. It had been burning on more than five hectares on August 21.

Georgian officials said earlier that high winds and heavy smoke were hampering efforts to contain the blaze.

The steep, rugged landscape of the park in south-central Georgia impedes access for machinery and makes it harder to fight fires.

Wildfires have broken out across the South Caucasus country this summer, including in the capital, amid unusually high temperatures, and neighboring Armenia has also been affected.

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