Friday, August 27, 2010

Blazing Summer

This is fire season in Italy as well as in the States. Serving in the US Forest Service for over 30 years means that fire season evokes memories. The sights, the smells…

There are plenty of smokers here to pitch butts onto the roadsides.  We awoke Sunday at 2 AM to the sound of crackling flames that in our grogginess at first looked like fireworks.  It was a fire just 50 meters from the house.  It turned out OK due the local fire guys, but whilst we watched, hot embers blew into the house through the open windows and doors…next time maybe we should close the windows? Later that same day the first large fire nearby broke out and the Protezione Civile brought in 2 of their Canadair air tankers. These Canadair planes flown by the government are very efficient little air tankers that the Italians use efficiently (being surrounded on three sides by seas). Americans are losing their large air tankers because they are old and being grounded. You  can read more about that here.

English friend Clive captured the tankers dipping into the sea just off the Scalea beach to refill the water tanks in about 20 seconds, and was kind to share the images (You can read more about Clive and Kathryn at their nicely done website. They operate a very nice B&B in the historic sector of Scalea).
On Thursday morning, there was heavy smoke all around us and even some ash floating in the windows at 6 AM…clues that a fire must be burning nearby. I left for Scalea around 8 and saw a hand crew of 6 guys working a 5-acre fire just ¼ mile from the village. They were dressed in bright orange clothing and were chasing the grass and brush fire with swatters like they use in the southeast US. They were just pulling up to a bar near the car park when I returned from town at 10. They were able to get their morning beer nearly on time!
A larger fire between here and Papasidero actually caused most of the smoke in the valley. One of the Canadairs was back and working the fire when I returned home.

From our terrazzo, I watched him scoop water in the sea 8 km away. Once tho’, he rose then started to circle. I thought there was trouble – looking down I saw he had spotted a new little fire on the edge of the town of Marcellina. He dove and nailed that fire perfectly and went for more seawater! After its final trip to the fire Thursday, the air tanker lined up on the paved runway at Scalea, then he buzzed the airport at 200 feet, wagged his wings to the guys below, pulled up and headed to the airport at Lamezia Terme. 
I have seen Sikorsky sky crane helicopters in Italy, but none rigged for fire fighting. I guess the Canadairs are so fast and efficient that heavy helicopters don’t make sense especially for Italy that has ocean water within reach of most areas. Here’s a skycrane working a fire in Oregon in 2006.  They suck water into a tank thru the dangling snorkel and bomb fires with water like the air tankers.

After all this excitement, I think I’ll join our neighborhood cat for a little sun therapy…at least until I see the next tanker cross the sky!
Ciao, Guido


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. The little yellow planes are a familiar site around the Lago di Bolsena as well. The winds that come with this intense heat do not help the fire situation at all. Stay safe.

    Spelling error previously.

  3. Dumb old me first saw one of those planes landing and taking off again off the beach in Scauri. I thought that they were practicing rescuing people from the sea and couldn't understand why they were practicing so close to shore. Your coverage above is great!

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys. Sounds like all of Italy is burning. I assume they will all quit smoking soon...just a bit behind the curve on that. I wonder if there was any dip in fire starts in the US anyway because of that...probably not very much considering the weather there lately.

  5. I remember watching these my 1sr summer in Scalea. What amazing work they do. Great post Guido, off to check out Clive's now.

  6. Gil, please remind us about yourself and blog. Our files are not complete. I found Scauri on a map at least! Is that where you are living? Doug

  7. Doug, I'm Gil from Expats in Italy, but I live in the USA. My Father's cousin had a house in Scauri and my wife and I vacationed at his house a few times. After he passed away we visited Scauri as we liked it there. I like reading about Italy and figure it is rude to read and not comment. If I am backwards on that please let me know. I think you can see my email if you need more info.

  8. Thanks Gil. There is no backwards or forwards here as near as we can tell! We love to hear from people, but don't demand anything. We somedays struggle to remember all the new people we meet online and here in-person with so many people coning and going! We lived in the western American boondocks for many years.

    Hi Sue, I have to go visit Clive to see the work on his 18th century entryway. It's funny how Americans think anything over 50 years old is historic. When do you return to Orsomarso?


  9. Doug and Di, thanks so much for posting the info about firefighting. It's fun for me to read as I sit at the fire coordination center for my summer job. I really enjoy reading about the local community and about fixing up your new home. My husband and I really liked Italy and hope to explore the souther region on our next visit. Thanks again for your blog, Jeree Mills

  10. We saw a helicopter with a big bucket underneath fighting a mountain fire on 18 September when we were in Italy. It was quite amazing to watch from the beach. We lost count of how many times they went back to the sea to fill the bucket and at one point it looked like the fire would not subside, but they got there in the end. It was one of those holidays of seeing things that we hadn't seen before. We saw one of those black snakes wrapping itself round a large lizard and then dragging it off into it's lair, an octopus lapping up on the coast with the waves and either an octopus or large jellyfish in the sea (didn't hang around to check which it was), and then the fire fighting helicopter as well. Italy continues to surprise even after going there for the last five years. Abbiamo voglia di vivere in Italia! Auguri John & Toni

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