600 evacuated as wildfires continue to rage in Piedmont

Some 600 people have been evacuated from their homes in the Val de Susa area of Piedmont as firefighters continue to battle wildfires.

600 evacuated as wildfires continue to rage in Piedmont
Forest fires in Mompantero, in Val de Susa. Photo: Vigili del Fuoco

Over 300 fires have raged across the region in recent weeks, destroying at least 1,600 hectares. The fires also claimed the life of a 26-year-old man last week as he tried to help his family escape.

185 elderly people were evacuated from a care home in Val de Susa, about 30km west of the regional capital of Turin, on Sunday.

“Firefighters were active throughout the night, with around 250 people employed,” said Franco Licini, a coordinator for Piemonte’s civil protection unit

Canadair aircraft from France, Switzerland and Croatia are also supporting efforts to extinguish the fires, along with over 600 volunteers.

“It’s a tremendous effort, considering that serious fires have continued since October 10th. The situation has been aggravated in recent days by strong, hot and dry wind coming down from the Alpine range,” added Licini.

At least 60 municipalities have been hit by the fires, including wooded and mountain areas in the province of Cuneo, which lies close to the French border. Blazes have also spread to Sondrio and Brescia in the Lombardy region.

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.


‘Lucifer’ heatwave fuels Italy’s wildfires with temperatures up to 47C

A blistering heatwave is sweeping across Italy this week, fuelling fires in the south of the country, notably Sicily and Calabria, where a UNESCO-designated natural park is threatened.

‘Lucifer’ heatwave fuels Italy’s wildfires with temperatures up to 47C
Photo: Vigili del Fuoco (Italian fire brigade)

Temperatures hit 47 degrees Celsius (116 degrees Fahrenheit) in Sicily on Tuesday, near Syracuse, with meteorologists warning that Italy’s all-time record of 48.5 degrees, in Sicily in 1999, could be beaten on Wednesday.

Elsewhere in the south of Italy, the anticyclone dubbed ‘Lucifer’ by Italian media was forecast to send the mercury rising to 39-42 degrees on Wednesday before sweeping northwards, with weekend temperatures of up to 40 degrees in the central regions of Tuscany and Lazio, which includes Rome.

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The Italian health ministry issued ‘red’ alerts for extreme heat in the areas in and around the cities of Rome, Bari, Rieti and Campobasso on Tuesday, and those were joined on Wednesday by Palermo, Perugia, Frosinone and Latina.

Italy’s Department for Civil Protection meanwhile sounded the alarm over the heightened risk of serious fires due to the weather conditions this week.

The island of Sicily and the region of Calabria in particular have already been battling fires throughout the summer – most caused by arson and fuelled by heat – with firefighters recording 300 interventions in the past 12 hours alone.

The Madonie mountain range, near the Sicilian capital Palermo, has for several days been besieged by flames that have destroyed crops, animals, homes and industrial buildings.

Sicily’s governor, Nello Musumeci, called for a state of emergency to be declared for the mountains, while Agriculture Minister Stefano Patuanelli visited on Wednesday to meet local mayors.

In Calabria, fires threatened the Aspromonte mountain range, designated a UNESCO area of international geological significance.


The deputy head of environmental NGO WWF Italy, Dante Caserta, called for more resources, such as air support, to quell the flames “or it will be too late, and we will lose a priceless heritage forever”.

Thousands of blazes have been recorded across the peninsula in recent weeks, with one in the west of the island of Sardinia ravaging almost 20,000 hectares during the worst fires seen in decades.

Civil Protection head Fabrizio Curcio on Sunday urged the public to “avoid incorrect behavior and promptly report fires”.

Although extreme weather events have always existed and Italy is no stranger to intense heat, experts say the climate crisis is making heatwaves more frequent and more dangerous.

This year’s fire season has been significantly more destructive than the previous average, EU data shows