MAP: Where are wildfires raging in Italy?
Italy is burning once again, with dozens of wildfires across the country fuelled by exceptionally high temperatures and dry conditions.
In the past 24 hours, Italian Civil Defence (Protezione Civile) forces have responded to 15 major fires across the peninsula, with the most destructive blazes recorded in the regions of Lazio, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Campania.
READ ALSO: Italian wildfires ‘three times worse’ than average as heatwave continues
No victims have been reported in Italy so far, though hundreds of people across the country have been evacuated as a precautionary measure.
A total of 14 cities – including Rome, Milan and Florence – were on the country’s highest heatwave alert on Thursday, which warns of serious health risks to the general population. The total is expected to rise to 16 on Friday.
Temperatures are forecast to hit 40C (104 degrees Fahrenheit) across many parts of the north and centre this week, as well as in Puglia in the south and the islands of Sardinia and Sicily.
Although the exceptionally high temperatures of the past few months combined with the ongoing lack of rainfall have worsened wildfires across the country, “six fires out of ten are caused by deliberate human intervention”, said Coldiretti, Italy’s national farmers’ confederation.
Italy has registered at least three wildfires a day since the start of July, according to data collected by EFFIS (European Forest Fire Information System). These statistics are all the more alarming considering that over a third of Italy’s total surface (around 11.4 million hectares) is covered by forest.
The map below, courtesy of EFFIS, shows active wildfires in Italy on Wednesday, July 20th.
All active fires in Italy on Thursday, July 21st. Photo courtesy of the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).
In recent days, the most destructive wildfires have been and/or continue to be in:
Tuscany (central Italy)
A fire that broke out on Monday evening near the Tuscan town of Lucca continued to burn on Thursday morning, having already destroyed some 650 hectares (2.5 square miles) of woodland.
As many as 500 residents were evacuated as a precaution the area of Massarosa, east of Lucca, the fire brigade said. Five helicopters and five Canadair aircraft were fighting the blaze as well as ground crews.
Firefighters were reportedly struggling to bring the fire under control due to a phenomenon known as ‘spotting’: strong winds carrying sparks or embers out of the main fire’s perimeter, creating new blazes.
#incendioboschivo Massarosa (LU), 100 #vigilidelfuoco, supportati da un #canadair e un elicottero, impegnati nelle operazioni di spegnimento: attivi fronti di fiamma a Piazzano (clip video con immagini termiche dal drone), Gualdo, Valpromaro e Fibialla [#21luglio 9:30] pic.twitter.com/XCOutgV3Z1
— Vigili del Fuoco (@vigilidelfuoco) July 21, 2022
On Tuesday afternoon, another fire broke out in the woodland between Chiusi (Tuscany) and Orvieto (Umbria).
Due to the fire’s proximity to the local railway tracks, the high-speed line Florence-Rome was shut around 5pm and reopened a couple of hours later.
Friuli-Venezia Giulia (northern Italy)
A number of fires broke out in the Carso area, a karst plateau lying along Friuli’s border with Slovenia, on Tuesday. Several comuni have been affected so far, including areas of Monfalcone, which is home to around 30,000 residents.
As a result, the Redipuglia-Lisert section of motorway A4 was closed off on Tuesday afternoon and toll booth personnel were evacuated.
Efforts to put out the Carso fires continued during the night between Tuesday and Wednesday but the flames haven’t been brought under control yet.
In the meantime, Massimiliano Fedriga, the region’s president has issued an emergency ordinance (decreto di emergenza) aimed at “providing prompt assistance for those who were forced to leave the motorway, […] those who remained blocked in their own vehicles and any evacuees”.
#Gorizia, proseguito nella notte il lavoro di 27 #vigilidelfuoco con 15 automezzi per contrastare gli #incendiboschivi sul Carso: dall’alba 2 #canadair e un elicottero in azione tra i comuni di Doberdò (GO) e Aurisina (TS). Situazione in miglioramento [#20luglio 8:00] pic.twitter.com/NpPXR5X3oy
— Vigili del Fuoco (@vigilidelfuoco) July 20, 2022
Campania (southern Italy)
A major wildfire broke out in Lettere, about 30 kilometres southeast of Naples, on Monday. Civil Defence forces and the local fire department were still working on putting out the flames. Their efforts were being aided by three helicopters and a Canadair plane.
Other fires were recorded in Maddaloni and San Felice a Cancello, just outside Caserta.
Lazio (central Italy)
As many as 40 fires were recorded in or around the country’s capital, Rome, on Tuesday, with fire department units preventing major blazes from reaching residents’ houses in Tor Di Quinto and Fiano Romano.
In the last couple of days, minor fires have been reported in Trentino-Alto Adige, Calabria, Abruzzo, Puglia and Sicily.
Elsewhere in Europe
Due to the extremely high temperatures of the last few days, France, Spain and Portugal are also currently dealing with devastating wildfires.
On July 18th, there were as many as 33 active fires across mainland Spain. One of the worst fires broke out in Losacio, in the northwest of the country, with the blaze killing two people (a firefighter and a shepherd) and forcing 6,000 residents to evacuate.