Kras blaze intensifies again, three villages being evacuated

Kostanjevica na Krasu, 21 July - 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 were evacuated as the area affected by the fire has exceeded 2,000 hectares, as reported by Civil Protection officials. All houses have so far been protected.

A massive fire in the region of Kras.
Photo: Notranjska Civil Protection headquarters

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.

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 says on its web site.

They are being assisted by police and three helicopters from abroad - Austria, Slovakia and Croatia.

The army has also ensured a medical unit, and prepares 600 meals a day for the firefighters on the ground and provides sleeping capacities for 100 people as well as transport. A 20-tonne army excavator is also used to help in the forest.

An army team uses a drone with a thermal vision camera to locate hotspots.

Ambulances and first aid teams from the Nova Gorica area are also on high alert, while some 40 employees of the Forest Service are helping the effort by guiding the firefighters and clearing up corridors to help stop the fire from spreading.

Civil Protection head Srečko Šestan told the STA that the emergence of new fires had been unpredictable and it was difficult to assess whether they start because of the existing blaze or some other reasons.

Defence Minister Marjan Šarec said three army helicopters were still active, along with an army chopper and a plane, and a Croatian helicopter. A Croatian water bomber is reportedly also available again after being forced to retreat due to too dangerous conditions.

He said flying in the area was very demanding due to low visibility, so two coordinators are working to prevent collision.

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.

© STA, 2022