UPDATED: Kras Fires Contained After Difficult Night, Evacuees Return, But Fears Remain

By , 21 Jul 2022, 08:56 AM News
UPDATED: Kras Fires Contained After Difficult Night, Evacuees Return, But Fears Remain Photo: Northern Primorska Civil Protection Unit

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UPDATED: 11:30am
, 21 July 2022 - The massive fire that raged in the region of Kras on the border between Slovenia and Italy, south of Nova Gorica, has been contained to two isolated fires, and firefighters continue to fight it, including from the air. Most of the residents of the four villages that had been preventively evacuated on Wednesday have returned to their homes.

The firefighters had a difficult night having to battle two isolated fires near Kostanjevica na Krasu, the area where the fire had gotten dangerously close to houses, said Stanko Močnik, who commanded the overnight effort.

Both hotspots have been brought under control and contained, he said, while Ervin Čurlič of the regional Civil Protection headquarters told the STA that over the night, the fire near Kostanjevica had broken out twice after already being put out.

This is due to unexploded ordnance dating back to the First World War, because of which it is not possible for firefighters to approach the centre of the fire, he said, adding that both fires had nevertheless been contained.

Čurlič fears that the fire could start spreading again if the wind picked up again. It is difficult to forecast the wind situation for today, as it is changing rapidly, he added.

As the fire cannot be attacked directly from the ground, the only option for putting it out is from the air by helicopters of the Slovenian Armed Forces. These could not be flown at night, and will again be engaged during the day today.

The Pilatus aircraft will also be used for the effort, and a Croatian Canadair water bomber is said to be also available.

More than 800 firefighters were on the ground during the night, and new units are coming to Kras today to relieve them, the regional Civil Protection headquarters reported.

Civil Protection head Srečko Šestan assessed for the public broadcaster TV Slovenija on Wednesday evening that it was the largest fire ever in Slovenia, which destroyed vast areas of forest and undergrowth. Houses have been spared.

Around a hundred people were preventively evacuated from parts of Miren as well as the villages of Sela na Krasu, Hudi Log, Korita na Krasu and Nova Vas on Wednesday afternoon. Most of them were able to return to their homes by the evening.

The wider area remains engulfed in smoke that is irritating to the respiratory system and eyes, so the health authorities have recommended that people stay indoors.

The smoke has reached the Slovenian coast, with reports saying that visibility in the port city of Koper has been reduced to one kilometre.

Fires are burning also on the Italian side of the border, with the village of Jamiano being the most endangered. As of this morning, firefighters are being aided by a helicopter and a Canadair water bomber, the Trieste-based newspaper Primorski Dnevnik reported.

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