Croatian water bomber to come help fight fire north of Ljubljana

Ljubljana – Firefighters are fighting a major forest fire that broke out on Monday on the slopes of the Baba hill near Preddvor, about 30 kilometres north of Ljubljana. Army helicopters have been activated and now a water bomber from Croatia is to join the effort. A near-by village has been secured, but several firefighters have been injured.

According to the major of Preddvor, Rok Roblek, the priority had been to protect the village of Potoče and prevent even more damage as it will be substantial.

A lot of wood in private forests has gone up in smoke along with several holiday facilities, as the area is a popular hiking point, while additional damage due to erosion is expected later.

Some estimates suggest around 600-700 hectares of land has been affected. Yesterday, 250 firefighters were at the side and today about 100 are fighting the fire, said the head of the intervention, Andraž Šifrer.

The site is difficult to access, stones, rocks and trees are falling on firefighters and several have been injured while vehicles have also been damaged.

Web portal 24ur.com reported of three injured firefighters – two reportedly sustained minor injuries and in one case the degree of injuries has not been determined yet.

Three army helicopters were engaged in efforts to contain the fire today, with one ceasing operations in the afternoon. Defence Minister Matej Tonin said after visiting the site that four helicopters would be secured on Wednesday.

The Kranj Police Department said that due to the extent of the fire a Croatian Canadair CL-415 water bomber had also been activated. It is to take water from Lake Bohinj, some 35 kilometres west of Preddvor.

According to Matija Zupančič, a pilot of an army helicopter, said strong winds had made firefighting efforts even more difficult yesterday.

Luckily, Černava Lake is close by, so water can be lifted quicker, he said. The army choppers can take 1,100-2,400 litres of water in one lift.

Bojan Kos from the Kranj Police Department told the press today that information gathered so far suggested that the fire had started on Monday at around 4pm just above the village and then spread towards the top of the hill and on its other side also due to the wind.

Firefighting efforts are expected to continue at least for a day or two, while rain is also forecast in the coming days.

The Civil Protection and Disaster Relief Administration said that the national plan for major fires, which envisaged activation of a civil protection team, had been activated in the afternoon.

Šifrer assessed the current situation as “still critical”, as the fire is spreading fast, with new areas. The additional problem is that the wind above Preddvor is growing stronger and changing direction.

“We will not be able to put out the fire until the next heavy rainfall,” he assessed.