More than 270 fire department staff, alongside volunteers, are working round the clock to extinguish a series of fires in the Val di Susa region alone, about 30 kilometres west of the Piedmont capital Turin. Parts of the Cuneo region south of Turin are also ablaze.
Forty units, 15 fire engines, as well as helicopters and the Italian fire department's Canadair airborne fleet have been deployed to quell the dangerous fires in Val di Susa, according to the region's fire department.
"My team have been working since Sunday. Continuously," Giovanni Valentino, a volunteer fireman in Condove, on the edges of Turin, told La Stampa. "Last night the woods caught fire again and the flames were three metres high," he added.
More than 1,600 hectares have been destroyed in a few days - more than the total in the past year – according to the same report in the Italian daily.
At least 60 municipalities are apparently affected. A 26-year-old man was killed while trying to assist his family escape a fire, adds the report.
A fire in Val di Susa, west of Turin. Photo: Vigili Fuoco TV.
The wild fires were flamed by recent winds and quickly spread through the dry, autumn landscape. The rugged and remote mountainous terrain makes it hard for emergency services to access certain areas where villages remain cut off in clouds of smoke.
At least 20 firefighters remain trapped in an area of woodland surrounded by fire near the village of Bergia, west of the city of Cuneo, as they await reinforcements, writes Repubblica. A sudden change of wind in the night caused the fire to reverse direction unexpectedly.
Smoke seen in Cumiana, a suburb less than 10 kilometres from the city of Turin. Photo: Vigili Fuoco TV.
The fires have gathered such pace that they could pose a threat to the city of Turin, according to La Stampa, as hundreds of volunteers work to stop the fires from spreading further. The daily reports water shortages among firefighting units; it also claims airborne units are struggling to reach fires because of the flames.
The cause of the fires is still unknown but acts of arson have not been excluded.
Update (15:12): On the afternoon of Friday October 27th, Repubblica reports that the fires have worsened, citing firefighter leader Marco Marietta Noce who says the "situation is extremely serious."
The dense cloud of smoke means the firefighters can no longer rely on air support. In some areas, the flames are 20 metres high, adds the report. The fire department's twitter account has the latest updates.