Lombardy pleads for emergency help against wildfires

Lombardy now nearing crisis like Piedmont.

In a Milan press conference on Monday, regional councillor Simona Bordonali said the Lombardy region is asking for a state of emergency to be declared over the wildfires which have started ravaging the countryside.

On orders from regional president Roberto Maroni, she was setting up a meeting with Interior Minister Marco Minniti, in Varese to check the situation on the spot, to apply for state funding for the emergency work.

Five consecutive days of wildfire have forced schools to be closed in Varese, and further outbreaks are being battled in Como, Brescia, Pavia and Sondrio, with 320 hectares of countryside burnt.  The drought which has lasted most of the summer, as well as high winds, have left the woods and fields like tinderboxes.

Fire-fighters have deployed four helicopters and three Canadair twin-engine water-bombers – two Italian and one on loan from Croatia – to quench blazes across the region, following a similar situation in neighbouring Piedmont. Switzerland was also scheduled to loan two more helicopters, which can drop 4,500 litres of fire-retardant liquid at a time.

For several days the aerial “bombardment” was hampered by strong winds, but these have now dropped, allowing operations to resume.

Minniti meanwhile told media there was “strong suspicion” that the fires were being started deliberately.  And Environment Minister Gian Luca Galletti added, “These maniacs are robbing the country of its future. We’ve passed a law for up to 15 years in jail for fire setting, and we’re going to apply it with maximum severity.”