500 evacuated as forest fire strikes near Pisa

500 people were evacuated from their homes Monday night as a powerful forest fire struck the commune of Calci near Pisa.

500 evacuated as forest fire strikes near Pisa
Photo: Vigili del Fuoco

Video footage obtained by Ansa shows an orange blaze raging directly behind a street with houses and cars.

Screenshot of footage obtained by Ansa

As of Tuesday morning the fire was still raging over the Monte Serra hills, which separate Pisa from the neighbouring province of Lucca. No injuries have been reported so far.

Approximately 80 firefighters at the scene are contending with strong winds of up to 80 km/h which are spreading the flames faster than they can be extinguished, the Italian fire service reported on Twitter.

Low-flying twin-engine Canadair aircraft have been deployed to assist with the efforts by spraying water over the affected area.

The fire was first reported around 10pm Monday evening, according to Meteoweb, and the order to evacuate the homes was made by Calci mayor Massimiliano Ghimenti the same evening.

Residents were given temporary emergency accommodation in the local gym and the town hall, according to La Repubblica.

Ghimenti, who is updating residents on developments via his Facebook profile, announced Tuesday morning that schools in the villages of  Montemagno and Vicopisano would be closed as a preventative safety measure and to allow firefighters unrestricted access to the area.

A video filmed by the local daily Il Tirreno this morning shows an elderly man crying out in the street as smoke billows from his roof.

According to Corriere della Sera, another fire was started in the same area a week ago, but was extinguished before it spread out of control.

Speaking to the TV channel Canale 50, Pisa fire service captain Ugo D'Anna said that the fire was “almost certainly” started by a deliberate act.




France gets help from EU neighbours as wildfires rage

Firefighting teams and equipment from six EU nations started to arrive in France on Thursday to help battle a spate of wildfires, including a fierce blaze in the parched southwest that has forced thousands to evacuate.

France gets help from EU neighbours as wildfires rage

Most of the country is sweltering under a summer heatwave compounded by a record drought – conditions most experts say will occur more often as a result of rapid climate change.

“We must continue, more than ever, our fight against climate disruption and … adapt to this climate disruption,” Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne said after arriving at a fire command post in the village of Hostens, south of Bordeaux.

The European Commission said four firefighting planes would be sent to France from Greece and Sweden, as well as teams from Austria, Germany, Poland and Romania.

“Our partners are coming to France’s aid against the fires. Thank you to them. European solidarity is at work!” President Emmanuel Macron tweeted.

“Across the country over 10,000 firefighters and security forces are mobilised against the flames… These soldiers of fire are our heroes,” he said.

In total, 361 foreign firefighters were  dispatched to assist their 1,100 French colleagues deployed in the worst-hit part of the French southwest.

A first contingent of 65 German firefighters, followed by their 24 vehicles, arrived Thursday afternoon and were to go into action at dawn Friday, officials said.

Among eight major fires currently raging, the biggest is the Landiras fire in the southwest Gironde department, whose forests and beaches draw huge tourist crowds each summer.

It had already burned 14,000 hectares (35,000 acres) in July – the driest month seen in France since 1961 – before being contained, but it continued to smoulder in the region’s tinder-dry pine forests and peat-rich soil.

Since flaring up again Tuesday, which officials suspect may have been caused by arson, it has burned 7,400 hectares, destroyed or damaged 17 homes, and forced 10,000 people to quit their homes, said Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Mendousse of the Gironde fire and rescue service.

Borne said nine firefighting planes are already dumping water on the blaze, with two more to be in service by the weekend.

“We battled all night to stop the fire from spreading, notably to defend the village of Belin-Beliet,” Mendousse told journalists in Hostens.

On several houses nearby, people hung out white sheets saying: “Thank you for saving our homes” and other messages of support for the weary fire battalions.

“You’d think we’re in California, it’s gigantic… And they’re used to forest fires here but we’re being overwhelmed on all sides — nobody could have expected this,” Remy Lahlay, a firefighter deployed near Hostens in the Landes de Gascogne natural park, told AFP.

With temperatures in the region hitting nearly 40C on Thursday and forecast to stay high until at least Sunday, “there is a very serious risk of new outbreaks” for the Landiras fire, the prefecture of the Gironde department said.

Acrid smoke has spread across much of the southwestern Atlantic coast and its beaches that draw huge crowds of tourists each summer, with the regional ARS health agency “strongly” urging people to wear protective face masks.

The smoke also forced the closing of the A63 motorway, a major artery toward Spain, between Bordeaux and Bayonne.

The government has urged employers to allow leaves of absence for volunteer firefighters to help fight the fires.

Meanwhile, in Portugal, more than 1,500 firefighters were also battling a fire that has raged for days in the mountainous Serra da Estrela natural park in the centre of the country.

It has already burned 10,000 hectares, according to the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).