Aerial firefighting continues to tackle blaze in Kras
Kostanjevica na Krasu, 24 July - Firefighters in the Kras region, where an extensive fire has been raging for ten days, are mopping up along the fire edge as aircraft continue to provide support from the air. The regional Civil Protection was visited by Prime Minister Robert Golob and Defence Minister Marjan Šarec, and authorities said the fire was currently under control.
On Sunday morning, a helicopter flew over the fire site to identify individual hotspots using a thermal imaging camera. "Based on its data, these hotspots are then extinguished by helicopters," said Robert Okorn, the intervention's spokesman.
Later in the day, Simon Vendramin, the intervention's head, said the blaze was currently under control with some hotspots still being active. He is hopeful that these could be contained today despite the bora wind that is making things more difficult for firefighters, especially when it comes to aerial firefighting.
Golob and Šarec visited the regional Civil Protection in Kostanjevica na Krasu to get briefed on the state of play. "I hope we will get to a point today where we can say that the situation is under control," Šarec told the press, but Vendramin warned that there was a possibility of fires re-emerging.
A preventive operational headquarters was set up in the Prvačina village in the Vipava Valley on Saturday. The headquarters, which includes all the villages that are currently closest to the fire - Prvačina, Dornberk, Branik and Gradišče, is preparing activities in case the fire spreads.
The fire is being tackled by some 1,600 people today, including 1,100 firefighters from all over Slovenia, 140 members of the Slovenian Armed Forces and numerous volunteers who are taking part in a campaign to clear the fire site, cut down trees and create firebreaks, the Defence Ministry said.
Firefighters are extinguishing the flames on the fire edge, but they cannot enter forested areas that are on fire due to the danger of unexploded ordnance from WWI, Šarec said.
A police water cannon and about ten aircraft from Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Austria, Hungary and Italy are assisting in the extinguishing efforts. Three Romanian aircraft also arrived in Slovenia on Saturday to help, including two Spartan aircraft.
The safety requirement for firefighting with such aircraft is a 500-metre safety corridor without people or equipment. This type of firefighting could be used for newly-emerged fires, Srečko Šestan, the chief of the national Civil Protection, said yesterday. Spartan can drop 6,000 litres of water in one go.
Some 1,000 firefighters and around 300 members of other services managed to somewhat contain the fire yesterday with the strongest air support so far. Most of the effort took place in the Opatje Selo-Temnica-Miren and Železna Vrata-Trstelj areas, the Civil Protection said on Twitter.
Firefighters then spent last night putting out individual hotspots and extinguishing all smouldering material along the fire edge. Okorn said that the night was calmer than the previous one, with the main focus on the western part of the fire near Lokvice and Kostanjevica na Krasu.
In the wee hours, there was some rain, but it did not cause any major changes on the ground. "The rain didn't help much, because everything dries out very quickly," he said.
The largest fire in Slovenia's history has so far devastated more than 2,000 hectares. No major damage to buildings has been recorded so far as only a cabin near Trstelj burnt down.