Kostanjevica na Krasu – Prime Minister Robert Golob and President Borut Pahor visited the Kras region in western Slovenia on Sunday where a large fire has been raging for ten days and now appears to be under control. Golob announced measures aimed at tackling the consequences of the blaze, as well as measures to prevent additional fire outbreaks of this magnitude.
Simon Vendramin, the intervention’s head, believes that the fire is under control now, but the area will have to be observed for a few more days to make sure the blaze does not re-emerge.
He is optimistic about the future developments though. Only a few hotspots remain in the northern part of the fire area, where individual underground fires are popping up. These are being detected by a helicopter equipped with a thermal imaging camera, and then extinguished by support from the air.
Firefighters are still mainly mopping up and making sure there are no new fires on the fire edge. There are some 1,500 firefighters on the ground currently, a number that will be reduced to 700 during Sunday night.
Several firefighters were slightly injured and they were mostly taken care of on the site, said Robert Okorn of the north Primorska region Civil Protection, who summed up today as a calmer and more optimistic day. Smaller hotspots were being extinguished throughout the day, but there was no major spread of the fire, he added.
Defence Minister Marjan Šarec, who also visited the area, told the press that in total, some 2,000 people were actively involved in the efforts to put out the fire today as he thanked all of them.
Erik Spačal of the Kostanjevica na Krasu volunteer fire department advises against gathering near the burnt areas and observing them, as this would be very dangerous. Moreover, it would make firefighters’ work more difficult, he warned.
Prime Minister Golob also confirmed that the fire was finally under control. What follows now is a fire watch that will be funded by the government and not by the Miren – Kostanjevica municipality, damage estimates and measures to prevent additional fires of such an extent, he said.
Fire watch efforts are by law financed by municipalities, but the prime minister said that in this case Miren – Kostanjevica would be financially drained in a few weeks if this burden befell it, so he vowed to extend the national civil protection plan to include a fire watch.
Next, the damage will be assessed, both to personal property and forests.
The third step will be to take measures to prevent such fires. “We will approach an ambitious and extensive prevention plan by the autumn at the latest,” Golob said.
He has already spoken to the mayors of the local municipalities about the measures, all of which are feasible but will require some political will, he added.
President Pahor also visited the regional Civil Protection in Kostanjevica na Krasu today to get briefed on the state of play. He thanked all who have been participating in the extinguishing efforts, pointing to the remarkable solidarity that has been shown since the fire started, his office said.
“The spirit of solidarity is not only present among Slovenians, but also more widely. All this gives hope to the Kras people that this will be over,” he told Radio Slovenija.
After announcing that he and his daughter Taja will donate the same amount that the government will allocate for firefighters and volunteers, prominent local businessman Ivo Boscarol told Radio Slovenija today that these people were true heroes. “In such conditions, all of us who can help must do so to let them know that we are with them and that we appreciate what they have done.”
Samo Kosmač, regional commander of the north Primorska region Civil Protection, thanked the government and Boscarol for their support. The Civil Protection provided logistical support to firefighters in the form of food, drinks, transport and accommodation, he said.
Slovenia’s Lieutenant Colonel Nina Raduha said the Slovenian army was proud to have helped bring the fire under control. She noted that Romania’s Spartan aircraft had played an important role in this and underlined the importance of cooperation.