The number of forest and vegetation fires in Italy so far this summer is about 75 per cent higher than last year, according to the fire service.
Between June 15 and August 15, there were 52,584 incidents, the fire brigade announced on Sunday. Last year, there were 30,106 in the same period, though this year’s figure was comparable to 2017, it said.
On Sunday, there was no respite for the fire brigade for the Italian holiday of Ferragosto on August 15.
As the fire brigade further announced, 7,600 men and women were on duty – 6,000 on regular duty and 1,600 as reinforcements – in view of the situation. They were supported by 15 firefighting planes and 14 helicopters.
Ferragosto, or the Feast of Augustus, dates back to the first Roman Emperor Augustus (63 BC-14 AD). It is considered the high point and turning point of summer. It also coincides with the Catholic feast of the Asumption of Mary into Heaven.
Recently, there have been fierce fires in Italy, among others in the southern regions of Calabria, Campania and Molise, on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia and in the area around Rome.
According to media reports, most of the fires were caused by arson. The Mafia is partly behind it.
On Saturday, the Carabinieri reported the arrest of two cattle farmers, a father and son, who wanted to expand their grazing.
La Repubblica newspaper reported on Sunday that many centuries-old forests of cultural and historical importance were also ablaze. These include a pine forest near Pescara on the Adriatic, which the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio, who was born there, once extolled.
In Cuglieri on Sardinia, a 1,000-year-old olive grove was devoured by flames.
The Aspromonte National Park in Calabria was also severely damaged.