Albania still on forest fires alert despite cooling of temperatures

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-16 20:29:29|Editor: Zhou Xin
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TIRANA, Aug. 16 (Xinhua) -- Albanian firefighting teams and army troops can finally take a breath after more than three weeks of battling massive wildfires that spread all over Albania following the cooling of temperatures as well as the rainfalls earlier this week.

However, Albanian state police informed Wednesday that heatwave that gripped Albania in the last two month further worsened the fires' situation but was not the main factor that caused the fires.

"The fires of the recent weeks in Albania have not only been caused by the high temperatures and the drought, but also by the human hand," a report of Albanian state police informed.

Police authorities also informed that they had put 35 people under investigation on charges of arson.

So far, Albanian authorities have arrested 12 people for arson, 19 have been released on bail and four others have been declared wanted.

According to police, the renewal of pastures and the opening of new lands by people who manage forests, with the scope of evading taxes and destroying forests to benefit grants in order to cultivate new trees were some of the motives behind these fires.

The Civil Emergencies Department presented its statistics according to which, around 600 fires have been registered in the country in the last two months.

The damage caused by the fires is considered enormous. Hundreds of hectares of pasture, land and forests were burned. Some houses in a southern Albania village were burned too, leaving several families without shelter.

Besides that, the Albanian defense ministry has reported high costs due to the deployment of some helicopters and other machineries.

Meantime, hundreds of Albanian army personnel and over 3,500 police forces have been deployed in the most problematic areas to help the firefighters control the fires in different parts of the country.

Actually, the Army forces have played a crucial role in battling the fires considering that the number of the firefighters is considered relatively low.

Albania's neighboring countries such as Greece and Italy also helped Albanian authorities to put out fires in some remote zones by sending water-dropping helicopters.

The assistance by the Greek Air Force took place following a request made by Albanian Foreign Minister Ditmir Bushati to his Greek counterpart Nikos Kotzias, leading to the activation of the European Civil Protection Mechanism.

Now the situation is less problematic as most of fires were put out. However, the authorities are still on alert as there are still wildfires raging in some districts. In the last 24 hours, the civil emergencies experts reported around 10 blazes so the work is underway to extinguish them.

They also said that the fires' situation is under constant monitoring while they made an appeal to citizens to report fires immediately.