July 4, 2023 – Summer is here, which invariably means forest fires in Croatia, which mostly start through negligence. An important campaign from Croatian Forests.
Back in the summer of 2003, I was flying back from Tokyo to my new house in Jelsa on Hvar for a short holiday. I picked up a copy of the Herald Tribune and started to catch up with events in the world over a gin and tonic. The main story of the day surrounded the devastating forest fires all over Europe. They were particularly severe in Portugal, I recall, but halfway through the article, my heart stopped. They actually mentioned my little town Jelsa by name as one of the worst affected.
The fire had come to the very edge of my new home town, and fires that summer wreaked havoc all over Hvar and Dalmatia. Many beloved lavender fields succumbed to the flames, never to be replaced. It was a terrifying introduction into the carnage that forest fires, almost 90% of which are caused by human carelessness, can cause. Four years later, more fires on Hvar claimed the life of a Stari Grad firefighter whom I had got to know quite well.
Forest fires are sadly part of the summer scene in Croatia. Nothing was quite as bad as the 2017 wildfires which reached the gates of Split, causing widespread damage and destruction. And while the forest fires are sadly a reality of life here, the vast majority of them are entirely preventable. The indifferent weather so far this year has meant that there have been few incidents so far, but in anticipation of another scorching summer, Hrvatske Sume (Croatian Forests) has launched an information campaign called “Recklessness is the First Spark – Prevent Forest Fire Before It Starts.”
Recklessness is the First Spark – Common Fire Causes
People tend to relax on holiday, and the most common causes of forest fires and due to carelessness and are easily preventable. The top three reasons are (each include by a short promotional video from the campaign, which you can see below):
1. Discarded cigarette butt
Short hiking trips to forested hills and mountains are one of the favorite activities of Croatian citizens and tourists. Therefore, it is not unusual for them to leave waste, including cigarettes, behind. One should never throw cigarette butts into nature. Aside from the pollution which is a good enough reason on its own, they can start a fire that will easily spread to vegetation, tall grass and forest.
2. Unextinguished flame
Many people like to use the summer months for camping or outdoor grilling. Unaware of the danger, a smoldering flame can spread in an instant and turn into a large, devastating fire. Equally dangerous are matches that are thrown on the ground unextinguished and hot.
As children, almost all of us tried to set a piece of paper on fire using the sun’s rays and a magnifier, but many don’t know that one can achieve the same effect with ordinary glass. A glass bottle left in nature is not harmless at all and can be another wildfire trigger.
What to Do If You See a Fire?
Since there is a strict ban on lighting fires in open spaces in the summer, if you notice any smoke, call 193 or 112. Your call can prevent a devastating fire. When they see a fire, many people assume that someone else has already called the emergency services, but this is often not the case. A timely call can help to prevent days or firefighting and devastation.
Croatian Forests Investments in Fire Protection
In Croatian forests, the fire protection season lasts continuously, which is also shown by the fact that in 2023 alone, more than 16 million euros will be invested for these purposes. For the period 2022 – 2025, the company acquired an integrated service of private radio communication for the purpose of forest fire protection, as well as video surveillance with smoke and fire detection and a fire spread simulator that enables even better actions in cooperation with the operational forces of the civil protection system, especially Croatia firefighting community.
In total, there are 96 cameras in the forests in 48 locations and 4 surveillance operational centers located in four Dalmatian counties. In June of this year, a new set of cameras started operating in Istria. An observation and reporting service for Croatian Forest workers in the karst area is also organized, and during the fire season, additional workers are employed for a certain period of time in order to reduce the reaction time to the observed smoke as much as possible. Throughout the year, there has been much work on the construction and maintenance of fire protection roads and motor stations, on the protection and maintenance of forests, as well as on raising public awareness of the dangers of fire.
Croatian Forests Campaign Partners
The campaign “Recklessness is the First Spark – Prevent a Fire” has a number of Croatian Forests partners. In addition to the Croatian Fire Brigade, they are the Ministry of Tourism and Sports of the Republic of Croatia, the Civil Protection of the Republic of Croatia, the Croatian National Tourist Board, BINA-Istria, Croatian Highways and the Zagreb – Macelj Motorway. You can find more on the campaign on the official Croatian Forests website.
Croatia is a magical place in the summer months, and a little more respect to Mother Nature can help prevent the careless and reckless actions of the last few years which have caused such damage.
This article is in paid partnership with Croatian Forests.