31 August 2007

Circle of fire around Ascoli Piceno

Ascoli Piceno e’ un inferno

The devastating fires in Greece have been in the news this week but the wildfires continue in Italy, too. There was an article in one of the national papers earlier this week that said last week alone there were over 320 wildfires in Italy, mostly in the southern half of the boot. Ascoli Piceno has seen these fires up close.

I wrote before about some of the fires and the Canadair planes used to combat them but this week there has been a series of fires only a few kilometers from the centro storico. Tuesday and Wednesday we could hear and see the Canadair tankers as they flew low over the city to drop water in the hills west of Ascoli Piceno. The skies were darkened by the thick smoke and the smoke smell settled into the narrow streets. By Wednesday evening the drum of planes stopped and it appeared the fires were over.

One newspaper article I saw Thursday morning while at the pasticceria said the fires were fought with two Canadair tankers, a helicopter and only thirty-three firefighters on the ground.

Thursday morning we drove west along the Via Salaria to visit Arquata del Tronto and we could see some of the areas that burned earlier this week. Valerie commented that there were still some areas smoking but we could see or hear no efforts to quench these hotspots. By the time we reached Arquata del Tronto there were strong winds blowing from the west.

As we returned to Ascoli that afternoon there was a pillar of smoke rising above the Via Salaria. We found the source near Rosara, about 4 kilometers from Ascoli, and stopped to see what efforts were underway to control the flames. As we watched, the strong winds blew the fire east and new fires started on adjacent hills. Within twenty minutes the fire had spread, covering the 4 kilometers to the hills northwest of Ascoli Piceno.

After we parked the car and headed down the hill to our apartment we could see the smoke and fires just beyond the roof tops of the city. There were news reports of up to 500 people having to be evacuated from their homes as the fire approached the outskirts of city. Friends of ours have a home in that area and they reported their home was undamaged but filled with the smell of smoke. The drone of planes continued until dark and started again this morning and have continued off and on all day.

Now there is a dark covering of clouds that we pray will bring some much-needed rain, something Ascoli Piceno has not experienced in measurable quantities for most of this summer.


Gil said...

Reading about these fires really has me worried about all of my blogger friends living in Southern Italy. When one of you takes a few days off from posting I worry that a fire has hit your town. This has escalated since seeing the guy that runs the local Greek pizza shop in my town on the evening news being all worried about not being able to reach his 87 year old Mother and his brother in their town in Greece. Thanks for the great pictures.

Anonymous said...

What amazing pics! What a scary sight, though. Hope they get them under control soon.

Bryan said...

We have still been hearing planes and helicopters this weekend and the smoke settles in during the night as the cool air flows in from the adjoining mountains.

We got no rain from those clouds and less the weather changes fires will continue to be the norm here.