Report: Biggest blaze battled by 15,000 firefighters, other experts

Ljubljana – The biggest wildfire in Slovenia’s history spread across 3,500 hectares over the course of 12 days. Efforts to put it out involved over 12,500 firefighters and 2,500 members of support services, such as civil protection, police and military force, medics, explosives experts and air support crews, among others, an initial report shows.

The Forest Service estimates that the fire destroyed some 2,700 hectares of forest. Roughly half of that was pine forest and the other half was deciduous forest, says an interim report by the Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief, which the government is to discuss tomorrow.

According to the report, more than 12,500 firefighters took part in the firefighting operation between 19 and 26 July, using nearly 3,000 fire engines and other vehicles.

Some 2,500 members of support services also took part, including civil protection units, the police and military forces, emergency medical teams, the Red Cross, the unit for unexploded ordnance, air support crews, rapid response crews, Forest Service staff, Slovenian State Forests teams and volunteers. Exact figures are still being updated.

Due to the large number of firefighters, the military medical unit was also sent to the site. In total, 62 injuries were recorded in the 12 days of firefighting, none of them serious.

International air support was of extraordinary importance, due to risk posed by unexploded ordnance from World War I scattered across the area.

Nine helicopters, five air planes and firefighting units from Austria, Croatia, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Serbia helped out based on the EU Civil Protection Mechanism and bilateral agreements. Moreover, help was offered by Sweden in the form of two air planes.

Unexploded ordnance made the effort to put out the blaze even harder and very dangerous, demanding the constant presence of the unexploded ordnance unit. Every day, six to eight members of the unit were present at the site, steering the firefighting and removing the ordnance found.

It is estimated that the fire caused more than 500 detonations. By Tuesday, the unit removed 230 explosive devices weighing a total of 1,300 kilograms.

To get a better overview of the fire, the area was mapped by the Copernicus Emergency Management Service as of 21 July.

Apart from Slovenian president, prime minister, defence minister and other officials, the site was also visited by European Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič and Serbian Interior Minister Aleksander Vulin.

The table below shows information about aid received through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism:

Source: The Administration for Civil Protection and Disaster Relief