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What to do and what to avoid if you see a wildfire in Italy

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What to do and what to avoid if you see a wildfire in Italy
Volunteers try to extinguish a wildfire near Nuoro, in the centre of Sardinia, on July 24, 2009. Deadly summer wild fires spread across Spain, France, Italy and Greece on Friday with holidaymakers rescued from beaches and thousands of firefighters brought into the battle. At least seven people are known to have died in the fires over three days. A Spanish fireman and a shepherd and a farmer on the Italian island of Sardinia were the latest fatalities. AFP PHOTO / MASSIMO LOCCI (Photo by MASSIMO LOCCI / AFP)

As deadly wildfires blaze in southern Italy, here's some advice if you happen to see one and tips for how you can help to prevent them.


Every summer, wildfires in Italy cause widespread destruction and are often deadly.

Wildfires are also a big environmental and economic problem for Italy. In the last 40 years, forest fires have affected an average of 107 thousand hectares - roughly ten times the size of Florence - per year, according to a report titled 'A country that burns' by Greenpeace and the Italian Society of Silviculture and Forest Ecology (SISEF).

Wildfire season is generally throughout July and August, and although all regions can be affected, they happen most frequently in Sicily, Campania, and Calabria.

According to data from the Corpo Forestale dello Stato (State Forestry Crps), the total number of fires in Italy from 2009 to May 2016 was some 39,203. The map shows the distribution of the blazes.

Source: Dati alle fiamme

Prevention is better than cure, so there are several things you can do to help prevent them starting.

Keep forests clean

According to guidance from the Civil Protection Department, the highest percentage of fires is due to human behaviour.

In the summer, the temperatures are at their hottest and more people are out in the forests enjoying the countryside.


So remember to take your rubbish with you and don't throw cigarette butts or still-lit matches, as they can set fire to the dry grass on embankments along roads and railways.

What not to do

It is forbidden and dangerous to light fires in the woods - only use the designated areas (if there is one). Never leave a fire and make sure it is completely out before you leave.

If you have to park your car, make sure that it's not in contact with dry grass, as it can start a fire.


What to do if you see a forest fire

Italy's civil protection authority and interior ministry has urged members of the public to report wildfires by calling the fire brigade on 115 or calling the emergency number 112.

If you see flames or smoke (or any other type of environmental emergency), you can also call 1515.

Don't assume that others have already called emergency services, the interior ministry advises.

Callers are asked to remain calm and speak clearly, indicating as precisely as possible the location, giving the province and municipality of the area that is burning.

You'll also be asked to say whether there are already people on the scene who are putting out the flames. Do not hang up until the operator says so, or has repeated the message.


Should I flee the scene or seek refuge?

If you're caught in the fire, look for a safe escape route, such as a road or along a waterway. People are advised not to stop in places where the wind is blowing, as you could get caught in the flames and have no way out.

Lie down on the ground in a place where the fire isn't spreading - the smoke tends to rise and this way you avoid breathing it.

If you're safe, don't get in the way of rescue and don't stop on the road to watch. Help the rescue work by leaving the fire services to do their job.

What are the punishments for starting forest fires in Italy?

As forest fires can and do cause such extensive damage, Italy has some serious consequences for those who start them - if they can be identified and charged.

Anyone who causes a fire in the woods, forests or woodlands or in forest nurseries intended for reforestation could face four to ten years in prison.

If the fire is caused by negligence, the sentence is one to five years.

These sanctions are increased if the fire causes danger to buildings or damage to protected areas.

And they are increased by half if the fire causes serious, extensive and persistent damage to the environment.


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Theserenity4all 2021/08/12 07:53
Hello, I live in Puglia and I know that here you will be fined for this at least on agricultural land. However my understanding is that because many properties are inherited or people moved to different regions it is near impossible to track down the owners. I am fairly sure that here in Puglia they passed a law that those properties now can be cleared by the authorities. So I would report the issue to the local fire department. Maybe the same or a similar law exists in your area. 🍀
kennington.sue 2021/08/02 19:23
Hi, do you or does anyone happen to know if there are fines or sanctions for people who leave their land go to ruin ? We are surrounded by abandoned farmland and tangled overgrown forest, that hasn’t been maintained since the 1960’s. It is just waiting for a fire - but the landowner lives in the city and ignores it, and our protests.

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