Major fire in Gorenjska put out, still being watched

Preddvor – The major fire on Potoška Gora and Baba hills near the town of Preddvor, some 30 km north of Ljubljana, which broke out on Monday afternoon, has been put out on the surface, as the rainfall on Thursday has assisted firefighters in their efforts. A total of 1,100 firefighters have taken part in the effort, and four were injured.

Firefighters hope for as much rain as possible so that the fire is also put out in the ground, while a firefighting team has remained at the location to watch out for possible new hot spots.

At today’s press conference, Preddvor Mayor Rok Roblek noted that the fire had been kept away from residential areas, while adding that the fire was “horrifying”.

“It was a movie-like scenario, which has also concluded in the three days in a movie-like fashion, at least we hope so,” he said, adding that the fire was now a “sleeping monster” and that it had to be watched so it did not break out again.

Efforts continued to find hot spots over night, like on Wednesday, when the fire was already contained. “In the early morning, it finally started raining,” said Andraž Šifrer, head of the firefighting effort and commander of the Kranj Firefighter and Rescue Service.

He believes that the fire has been put out, while warning that it could still break out again as the temperature of the soil is still high. A firefighting watch has stayed at the location for this reason.

A unit with five firefighters and an off-road vehicle is monitoring the site, and will remain there in the coming days. Access to the area is still restricted, as it remains secured also due to the ongoing investigation.

A popular hiking spot nearby has been reopened, although people are advised to be aware of the hazards in the broader area because there is still a risk of falling rocks as a consequence of the fire.

Mayor Roblek said that a preliminary meeting to assess the damage would be held on Friday, while already noting that the damage would be immense, measured in millions of euros.

Forest and forest infrastructure have been damaged and three holiday homes have burned down, he said, adding that full damage would be revealed only later, as the area would be exposed to erosion and pests.

A part of the forest protecting the village of Potoče and its 250-300 residents from the rockfall has burned down, so it will be necessary to rehabilitate the damaged trees as soon as possible and plant new ones to keep the soil from eroding.

Kranj Police Department director Melita Močnik said that the location of the fire was being investigated and that the investigation would be lengthy, extensive and demanding, as the fire had destroyed most of the evidence and traces.

A total of 1,100 firefighters from 160 units fought the fire in the last three days and four army helicopters dropped 400,000 litres of water on the site, flying for 37 hours. A Croatian water bomber was also activated on Tuesday. The fire had spread out to 700 hectares.

Four firefighters were injured during the intervention, which the head of the Kranj community health centre, Lilijana Gantar Žura, said was a small number given the size of the operation. She said the work of firefighters and all the other services had been “exceptional”.