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Monday, 29 August 2016

The fire on Monte San Costanzo - considerations


On Sunday I decided to go and see for myself the state of the trails above Punta Campanella following the fire a few days ago. 
I set off from Termini, taking the path towards Punta Campanella, but branching up left before the tip to the belvedere of Rezzale. From there I followed the track (very evident now that there is little vegetation left to hide it) up the ridge as far as Campo Vetavole, veering left along the Vuallariello (part of the Giro di Santa Croce) before cutting up to the belvedere di Mitigliano and returning to Termini.

track to Rezzale
Some observations:
  • the fire only reached the newly restored path to Punta Campanella for a short stretch, well before the tip, and didn't cross it.
  • the track up to the viewpoint at Rezzale functioned well as a fire barrier. This is probably what saved the tip itself with the tower and lighthouse. On the side of the hill everything was burnt, on the side towards the sea the vegetation was untouched.
  • here and there were inexplicable, isolated and random patches of vegetation that had been spared, with even a solitary clump of grass in the middle of the cinders. 
  • the overall impression was dark and lunar; every now and then there was a splash of yellow from the wild fennel flowers.
  • the only victim I found along the way was a dead snake looking bemused. However crows were circling above, as was a solitary falcon.The lizards
    were out and about, the insects buzzing around and swallows swooping.
  • the ancient terracing and dry-stone walls are the new protagonists of the landscape, especially once you reach Campo Vetavole. 
  • the trails are all perfectly viable, although I personally would not like to go along the path above the bay of Jeranto now that there is no vegetation to act as a barrier and presumably a lot of loose stone. I had to move a few small charred branches obstructing the Vuallariello, but nothing major. Wet wipes are essential before you return to civilization. My legs were nearly as black as the hillside.
Considerations of a more serious nature.
I totally agree with Giovanni Visetti (see his latest blog "Pyromaniacs? No excuses, these are arsonists"). This fire was deliberate. It was not the work of irresponsible barbecue addicts, maniacs or self-combustion. And not only that, it was well-planned down to the finest detail. The local fire-fighters were already busy fighting a fire that had been started earlier over near the village of Torca. It was a windy day, the fires were started in several points (so if one didn't "take", another would..), it was late evening and already dark. This meant that the helicopters couldn't intervene until daylight, and then in any case their first priority was Torca where houses were at risk. The helicopter arrived here at lunchtime.
This meant that the fire had ample time to spread, and spread it certainly did. The first attempts to put it out were not particularly successful, so overnight the fire took hold again, but worse, moving off the mountainside and racing down the ridge. Day 2 saw  the helicopter return, but this time with the more effective Canadair plane, and in the end the fire abated.
Many people will remember that a few weeks ago there were two large, virtually contemporary fires in the Bay of Naples: one on Capri, the other on Vesuvius. Obviously firefighting resources are limited and if they are needed in two places at once, it becomes complicated..they have to choose. 
All this makes one think that the fires are not only 100% deliberate, but directed from "above" by someone who plans and organizes, sending the arsonists to do their dirty work and then reaping the advantages (presumably economical) of the consequences of the fires. Over the years there have been  a thousand fingers pointed in various directions: shepherds, foresters, hunters, building speculators, rock climbers, helicopter pilots, pilots, the companies managing the Canadair and helicopter services, officials of provincial and regional governments, the Civil Protection Agency, each probably infiltrated at some level by a criminal organisation. In other words, anyone but a pyromaniac. If this is the case, then it can only get worse since the rot evidently comes from the top. All we can hope for is that sooner or later a miracle will happen and the perpetrators  identified and duly punished.
However in the meantime, through our photos and our blogs, we can at least try to make everyone more aware of the dangers of lighting a fire in the open at the height of the summer, something which in any case is illegal. Last year the fire was the result of a group of irresponsibles  . This year is quite a different story.





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