Kras Fire Latest

By , 21 Jul 2022, 16:39 PM News
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UPDATED Wednesday, 27 July 16:00

New Fires in Kras

STA, 27 July 2022 - Firefighters kept putting out flames rekindled at the site of the huge wildfire in Kras for the third night running after the fire was contained on Sunday as a new fire broke out on the other side of Trstelj, the area's highest peak, and is now spreading in the peak's direction.

According to the regional Civil Protection headquarters, the new fire started at around 1am above the village of Šibelji in the Komen municipality, on the slope of a 567-metre hill called Veliki Ovčjak. The flames are being fanned by winds and are spreading toward the Železna Vrata pass and Trstelj (643m).

The new fire broke out on the part of the ridge that has so far not been affected by the wildfire that was contained on Sunday after destroying more than 3,500 hectares of brush, meadows and other types of farmland.

By the afternoon, firefighters had managed to contain the fire almost completely except for the northern side of the fire, which is not yet fully under control, the head of the intervention Blaž Turk told reporters.

Spanning about 20 hectares, the fire is being controlled by 179 firefighters and two army helicopters.

The firefighting in what is a steep terrain is obstructed by a strong bora wind. The head of the fire was localised about a kilometre away from the previous fire so the flames could not have jumped over.

Komen Mayor Erik Modic said the fire was obviously a case of arson. "The fire is not in the immediate vicinity of the previous fire site [...] The second indication is that, although we had a lightning storm here yesterday, the nearest lightning strike was some 100 metres away from the centre of this fire, so in all likelihood there is a human factor involved here."

Plain-clothes police are on the ground looking for potential evidence. "Those who are considering arson should now we're watching them," said the mayor.

The long-expected rain on Tuesday did little to help the firefighters keeping watch over the site of the largest fire in Slovenia's history. Just after 5am this morning a hot spot was detected above Miren and all the units active during the night were deployed there. During the night 58 firefighters were on the site after 143 battled the flames on Tuesday with the help of 44 fire engines.

In total, more than 10,000 firefighters have so far been involved in the effort to put out the Kras wildfire as well as aircraft from several countries.

Kras Under Control, Prevention Measures Announced

STA, 24 July 2022 - Prime Minister Robert Golob and President Borut Pahor visited the Kras region in western Slovenia on Sunday where a large fire has been raging for ten days and now appears to be under control. Golob announced measures aimed at tackling the consequences of the blaze, as well as measures to prevent additional fire outbreaks of this magnitude.

Simon Vendramin, the intervention's head, believes that the fire is under control now, but the area will have to be observed for a few more days to make sure the blaze does not re-emerge.

He is optimistic about the future developments though. Only a few hotspots remain in the northern part of the fire area, where individual underground fires are popping up. These are being detected by a helicopter equipped with a thermal imaging camera, and then extinguished by support from the air.

Firefighters are still mainly mopping up and making sure there are no new fires on the fire edge. There are some 1,500 firefighters on the ground currently, a number that is expected to be reduced slightly during Sunday night. A decision on this will be taken in the evening, Vendramin said.

Defence Minister Marjan Šarec, who also visited the area, told the press that in total, some 2,000 people were actively involved in the efforts to put out the fire today as he thanked all of them.

Erik Spačal of the Kostanjevica na Krasu volunteer fire department advises against gathering near the burnt areas and observing them, as this would be very dangerous. Moreover, it would make firefighters' work more difficult, he warned.

Prime Minister Golob also confirmed that the fire was finally under control. What follows now is a fire watch that will be funded by the government and not by the Miren - Kostanjevica municipality, damage estimates and measures to prevent additional fires of such an extent, he said.

Fire watch efforts are by law financed by municipalities, but the prime minister said that in this case Miren - Kostanjevica would be financially drained in a few weeks if this burden befell it, so he vowed to extend the national civil protection plan to include a fire watch.

Next, the damage will be assessed, both to personal property and forests.

The third step will be to take measures to prevent such fires. "We will approach an ambitious and extensive prevention plan by the autumn at the latest," Golob said.

He has already spoken to the mayors of the local municipalities about the measures, all of which are feasible but will require some political will, he added.

President Pahor also visited the regional Civil Protection in Kostanjevica na Krasu today to get briefed on the state of play. He thanked all who have been participating in the extinguishing efforts, pointing to the remarkable solidarity that has been shown since the fire started, his office said.

"The spirit of solidarity is not only present among Slovenians, but also more widely. All this gives hope to the Kras people that this will be over," he told Radio Slovenija.

After announcing that he and his daughter Taja will donate the same amount that the government will allocate for firefighters and volunteers, prominent local businessman Ivo Boscarol told Radio Slovenija today that these people were true heroes. "In such conditions, all of us who can help must do so to let them know that we are with them and that we appreciate what they have done."

Samo Kosmač, regional commander of the north Primorska region Civil Protection, thanked the government and Boscarol for their support. The Civil Protection provided logistical support to firefighters in the form of food, drinks, transport and accommodation, he said.

Slovenia's Lieutenant Colonel Nina Raduha said the Slovenian army was proud to have helped bring the fire under control. She noted that Romania's Spartan aircraft had played an important role in this and underlined the importance of cooperation.

STA, 23 July 2022 - More than 1,000 firefighters and more than 260 foresters are still on the ground as the fire in the Kras region in western Slovenia continues to rage. Several helicopters, a Pilatus military aircraft and a Croatian Canadair water bomber also take part in the effort that is now focused on the Trstelj hill and surrounding villages.

A few more helicopters that had been active in the past days are on their way from abroad, while the aid from three aircraft of the Romanian Armed Forces has also been approved through the European aid mechanism.

Two Spartan aircraft that can load up 6,000 litres of water and are comparable to Canadair have arrived from Romania to Ljubljana airport in the afternoon, in addition to a Lockheed C-130 Hercules, which will serve as support.

Also coming are 800 firefighters from other Slovenian regions to relieve the exhausted colleagues who have guarded the perimeter around Opatje Selo over the night. New hot spots also popped up in Korita na Krasu and Hudi Log.

While the firefighters are battling the fire that devastated a vast area in Kras, the foresters, including 30 employees of the Slovenian State Forests (SDG) company, are clearing up corridors and cutting down the vegetation around endangered villages.

The Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) also participate in the effort with a helicopter and around 130 soldiers on the ground. They are helping with the logistics and in the supply of water and medical services.

The SAF has eight water tanks with the total capacity of 60,000 litres on the ground, while the helicopters are being supplied with fuel from two fuel tanks, said lieutenant colonel Nina Raduha, adding that the soldiers were also distributing warm meals.

Defence Minister Marjan Šarec, who is again at the site today, said that all the effort had to be focused on "enclosing" the fire as much as possible. He added that a Hungarian CASA fire-fighting aircraft was also on its way to the fire site.

Šarec assessed the flight control as excellent, saying that "it is a great challenge to coordinate as many aircraft in such a small space and avoid collisions", and noting that visibility was very poor at the fire site due to smoke.

The minister said that the wind was picking up again "so we cannot say that we can be at peace" and that precipitation had been
forecast only for next Tuesday. "We must focus on enclosing the fire, as relying on rain is not a good firefighting tactics."

Šarec said that all available aircraft were in the air - in addition to two Slovenian military and one police helicopter, helicopters from Austria, Croatia, Italy, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia have also joined the effort.

The firefighting effort is focused on Trstelj, the tallest hill in the area, the village of Renče, some 10 km south of the city of Nova Gorica, and the surrounding hamlets and the forested areas of the edge of Kras.

The regional Civil Protection centre has announced that residents of six villages and hamlets in the municipality of Miren-Kostanjevica can return to their homes after being evacuated on Friday.

In certain hamlets, the fire came dangerously close to buildings, with a lodge between Renče and Trstelj being burned down, Renče-Vogrsko mayor Tarik Žigon told the STA, adding that this was the only material damage so far.

As the weather forecast is not promising, and the situation is changing rapidly, although the fire in Renče has calmed down, he said, noting that the locals remained on high alert.

"As far as I know, a strong southerly wind is again forecast for the afternoon, so they are concerned that yesterday's scenario could repeat," Žigon said.

Issues are also being caused by the smoke, which has spread from Kras to the north-east, reaching the region of Gorenjska and central Slovenia. The Slovenian coast is also shrouded in smoke that causes respiratory problems and eye irritation.

The government announced yesterday compensations for the volunteer firefighters for the time they take off from work. Those fighting the fire up to eight hours a day will receive EUR 63, while those working for longer hours will get EUR 94.50.

This prompted local entrepreneur Ivo Boscarol to announce that he would donate to the government the same amount as it earmarked for the firefighters. "The doubled amount of the reward goes to those for whom we keep fingers crossed these days," he said.

The Defence Ministry announced that Serbian Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin visited the fire site today, meeting Defence Minister Šarec in the Civil Protection centre in Kostanjevica na Krasu.

As the Serbian police force participates in the fire-fighting effort with two helicopters and crews, Vulin noted in a press statement the importance of mutual aid, as no country can handle a fire like the one in Slovenia on its own.

He said it was a great honour to be able to help Slovenia and conveyed the good wishes of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić.

Slovenian Interior Minister Tatjana Bobnar also met Vulin as he arrived in Slovenia, with both her and Šarec thanking the Serbian minister for the aid that "is more than needed and welcome in the given situation."

Fires has meanwhile also broke out in several locations in the Hrpelje-Kozina municipality in the south-west. Firefighters are currently battling a wildfire on the Kotel hill near the Slavnik mountain.

The terrain is difficult to access and firefighters are unable to come close to the fire, so they are being assisted by a Slovenian police helicopter.

New Evacuations in Kras as 1,000+ Firefighters Battle Blaze (Videos)

STA, 22 July - People from three villages in the Kras region in the west are being evacuated as the wind changed direction on Friday in what is the third evacuation of local population this week. This time, the situation is critical in Opatje Selo, Nova Vas and Hudi Log. Journalists must also leave the villages.

Almost 1,000 firefighters and 300 other members of disaster relief services keep battling the huge blaze in the region, along with 130 foresters, who are cutting down trees to stop the fire. More than 2,000 hectares of land has been affected by the fire.

Defence Minister Marjan Šarec is at the site for the third day running. He said the situation was still very serious. Firefighters are doing their best to prevent the fire from crossing the roads to Trstelj and are also defending a building near Opatje Selo.

The danger of unexploded ordnance from the First World War remains an issue. Today a shrapnel from the ordnance that exploded due to the heat flew by the firefighters who were in the vicinity but luckily no one was hurt.

"The problem is that because of the unexploded ordnance firefighting units cannot penetrate into the fire but can only act on its edges. This is why the fire is being intensively fought from the air as well," Šarec said.

Below: The location of Opatje Selo, one of the affected villages

Two Slovenian helicopters and a military aircraft are engaged in these efforts along with helicopters from Slovakia, Austria and two from Serbia, Two more expected from Hungary.

The minister had no information on whether a water bomber from any of the neighbouring countries would again be able to help today or not.

Interior Minister Tatjana Bobnar and acting Police Commissioner Boštjan Lindav arrived at the site today, and PM Robert Golob is expected.

Bobnar told the press that the state will purchase a new helicopter that will be intended for fire-fighting, and also for emergency medical and mountain rescue.

Arriving in Kostanjevica na Krasu, she expressed "moral support, admiration and all other support" to all those battling the blaze, adding that the government would do everything in its power to help them.

The Slovenian firefighters' association has launched a fund-raising campaign for the firefighters. Those who wish to help can send an SMS with the word GSILEC5 to 1919 and donate 5 euro or transfer money to a special account TRR SI56 0400 1004 6481 225.

The fire is also being monitored by the EU Copernicus system, designed to monitor the Earth and run by the European Commission and the European Union Agency for the Space Programme in cooperation with the European Space Agency and EU countries.

Copernicus has been monitoring the fire since Thursday at the request of the Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief. The situation can be monitored at here.

Forest restoration is expected to be challenging.

Branka Gašparič, the head of the Sežana unit of the Forest Institute, told the STA efforts had been made for years to create roads and areas preventing the spread of fires, which are frequent in the region.

Now, as villages are being defended from the blaze, people have been cutting trees, expanding these areas to prevent the fire from expanding further, she said.

The most problematic species in Kras in terms of fires is black pine because of its resin and etheric oils. But the species has also proven to be the most appropriate for forest restoration, so it will be used for this purpose now as well to help vegetation recover quicker, Gašperič said.

Black pines will be the foundation in reforestation, followed by oak trees and other species adjusted to heat. Some parts of the land affected by the fire will be left to recover on their own, she said.

Kras used to be covered in forests, but after cutting of forests started the region was virtually devoid of trees in the early 19th century. Several waves of reforestation followed and around 1850 reforestation companies were being founded. Yet first attempts at planting deciduous trees were not particularly successful.

It was only in the 19th century as black pine gained prominence and appropriate legislation was put in place that forests started growing again in Kras. Between 1945 and 154, the efforts brought notable results and around 4,000 hectares of land was turned into forests again.

Evacuees from three villages returning to their homes

STA, 21 July 2022- The people from the villages of Temnica, Vojščica and Novela who were evacuated this morning are returning to their homes, as firefighters continue to fight the blaze in three separated locations near the villages of Nova Vas, Vojščica and between Cerje and Trstelje.

Massive work is being done from the air as well with a Croatian water bomber again joining the operation in the afternoon along with a Slovakian helicopter.

The main goal is to keep the fire line away from the Temnica - Renče road, the regional centre of the Civil Protection for northern Primorska said.

According to the centre, more than 1,000 Slovenian firefighters have also been joined by nine Croatian.

Civil Protection boss Srečko Šestan said the firefighters were trying to prevent the fire from spreading to Trstelj.

Web portal reported that about 400 people had been evacuated from Temnica, Vojščica and Novela. They gathered in Komen, where around 300 beds could be secured but the Civil Protection said in the evening the situation had stabilised to the point that they will be able to spend the night in their homes.

"Local residents were evacuated because of the smoke," quoted Defence Minister Marjan Šarec as saying.

Reportedly, 40 head of cattle was also evacuated.

In a statement for the STA earlier today Šestan said the emergence of new fires had been unpredictable and it was difficult to assess whether they started because of the existing blaze or some other reasons.

Šarec told the STA flying in the area was very demanding due to low visibility, so two coordinators are working to prevent collisions among helicopters and planes.

The fire is also sparking explosions of unexploded ordnance from the First World War. Darko Zonjič of the national unit for the protection against unexploded ordnance told the STA they stopped counting the explosions.

Only the explosions close to roads are being marked, and the sites will be inspected later. "There were quite a few explosions over the night as well, as the temperatures at the fire site are much higher," he said.

Every explosive device found outside the fire zone is being eliminated, Zonjič said, noting that so far some 70 grenades had been collected. The largest mine was a 250-millimetre German-made mine, weighing 42 kilogrammes.

The Slovenian army has been helping fight the fire for the sixth day today with choppers and the Pilatus transport aircraft. In the five days, about 900,000 litres of water has been dropped to the site, the army said on its web site.


STA, 21 July 2022 - After calming down a bit over the night, the wildfire in the Kras region has intensified again, with the firefighters currently battling the blaze in three separated locations. Three villages are being evacuated as the area effected by the fire has exceeded 2,000 hectares, as reported by Civil Protection officials.

Civil Protection head Srečko Šestan told the STA that this is the largest fire in history of independent Slovenia. "This is the first estimate", he said, noting that the "fire is nowhere near its end."

Giving the firefighters the most trouble is the fire near Klariči, a hamlet below the Kraški Rob fault near the Italian border. More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the blaze, announced the regional Civil Protection headquarters.

They are being assisted by helicopters of the Slovenian Armed Forces (SAF) and of the police and three helicopters from abroad - Austria, Slovakia and Croatia, as well as the Pilatus transport aircraft of the SAF.

The army has also ensured a medical unit, and will also prepare meals for the firefighters on the ground. Police officers are meanwhile working on evacuating endangered residents from the villages of Temnice, Vojščice and Novela.

Ambulances and first aid teams from the Nova Gorica area are also on high alert, while employees of the Forest Service are helping the effort by guiding the firefighters and clearing up corridors to help stop the fire from spreading.

The fire is also sparking explosions of unexploded ordnance from the First World War. Darko Zonjič of the national unit for the protection against unexploded ordnance told the STA they stopped counting the explosions.

Only the explosions close to roads are being marked, and the sites will be inspected later. "There were quite a few explosions over the night as well, as the temperatures at the fire site are much higher," he said.

On Wednesday, 18 pieces of unexploded ordnance were removed from the villages of Sela na Krasu and Korita, and two were removed today, Zonjič said.

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