Large fires broke out on multiple locations in Dalmatia yesterday, July 16, 2017. The blaze is spreading towards Split, burning down pine forests, underbrush, fields and olive groves in its path. Locals are desperate for help, houses and kindergartens have burned down and one person has died.
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All volunteer fire departments in the area of Split, Solin, Kaštela, Trogir and Omiš are at the scene. Canadair planes are unable to fly today due to strong winds.
Here is the course of events:
16:40 The fires in Srinjine, Gornje Sitno and Donje Sitno are still quite difficult, but fortunately at about 15:00, Canadairs took off which should help in extinguishing the fires, said Tomislav Vuko, Assistant Chief Firefighter Commander for the Coastal State Protection and Rescue Administration (DUZS), on Slobodna Dalmacija on July 17, 2017.
Vuko said that a number of firefighters from the State Intervention Unit (DIP) will arrive and added that from the early morning hours they have been working to replace the firefighters on the ground, which is why they expect help from other counties. For now, firefighters from Dubrovnik-Neretva County and DIP Dubrovnik have arrived.
“Canadairs could not fly this morning because there was strong turbulence, so they worked on other fires, for example in Hvar, more specifically Bogomolje. At bout 15:00 the weather calmed and the Canadairs took off. There are currently two Canadairs in the field, and soon there will be a third. In the whole area of Dalmatia, we currently have 20 fires that we have put out or are under control. There are five fires in Split-Dalmatia County and in Šibenik-Knin County the same, while Zadar County is burning in four places,” Vuko said.
It is impossible to know what damage has been done so far, but for now, there is information that several houses, business premises and work machines, kindergartens, parts of the cemetery, and numerous olive groves have burned. All of the older residents, women and children, as well as some tourists who were accommodated in the surrounding apartments, were evacuated from their homes due to the heavy smoke and the proximity of the fire. Many young and healthy residents stayed behind to help caretakers and defend homes.
14:55 “The situation is still very critical. The situation is catastrophic and the fire is still expanding. People have said that five or six houses have burned, but we could not reach them. Firefighters are trying to contain it, and Canadair help will not come due to the weather. Several firefighters have been injured. The whole area is without electricity and water, and traffic on several roads has been stopped. The situation is very, very critical,” reports Nova TV
14:20 From Sitno to Tugare there were 150 firefighters with 60 fire trucks
“There is not enough, everything will burn. You’ll see where the fire will spread,” the villagers said while the fire approached their homes just a few meters away.
Firefighters literally jumped from place to place to protect house after house. At one point a fireman is heard calling his colleagues and saying: “People are missing, everything is missing,” reported 24sata.
14:05 The worst is between Split and Omiš where several houses caught fire. An older man passed away while watching the fire burn through Donje Sitno. According to statements by the inhabitants, the man was an olive-grower who worked for years for everything he had. After watching the fire blaze through his crops, he died of a heart attack, most likely by shock, morksi.hr reported.
13:40 Residents of the affected area reported that the fire came very close to their home and that the Church of St. Luke in Sitno was barely saved.
13:00 A kindergarten in Srinjine burned down. The locals are desperate. “Help, our house burned down, in the end we are strong, the fire has entered between the houses,” said a local in the village of Gornje Sitno, Pave Gruica. “I ask that the Mayor, Prefect, Minister of Defense, and War Commander do what they can. We do not know what to do, we do not know who to turn to,” Gruica added.
Numerous firefighting departments have been out in the field for more than 24 hours now, battling blazes in Šestanovac, Merčep, Vukušići and Ribičić, as well as in Brodarica near Šibenik.
At this moment, the worst conditions are seen in the inland area between Split and Omiš. A fire that broke out in Tugare village near Omiš started spreading towards Split during the night, helped by the strong bura wind. Tugare have been evacuated around 5 in the morning, and the local residents started cutting trees down to stop the fire, reported Index.
Multiple houses burned down in the villages of Sitno Gornje and Sitno Donje. The latter has been left without running water and electricity; fields and olive groves turned to ash. Photos show the horrifying inferno and thick smoke covering the area where bura is still blowing incessantly, constantly changing direction, making it impossible for canadair aircraft to fly to the site.
Video showing the current state in Sitno area, courtesy of Index:
The blaze in Šestanovac area is also still spreading. Last night, around 23:00, the firefighters were battling the blaze in the village of Vukušići trying to prevent the houses from catching fire, reported Slobodna Dalmacija on July 17, 2017. Dozens of residential objects were saved from the fire thanks to great efforts of the firefighting departments, as well as the local residents helping. Around fifteen firemen asked for medical attention, as their sight was slightly impaired due to high levels of ash and dust in the air.
The wind is currently blowing at the speed of 33 knots, making it impossible for canadair aircrafts to fly to the site.
The blazes are spreading over such a large area that the smoke is currently visible on satellite footage. NASA published two images taken from a 705-kilometre distance, clearly showing smoke on multiple locations in Dalmatia. You can se the Modis aqua satellite image in high resolution here, and the Modis terra image is available here.
Photo credit: Index.hr