Firefighters in Sicily battling dozens of wildfires

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Officials believe they were intentionally set by the mafia, developers, or even forest rangers

wildfires Sicily
Photo via Naval Air Station Sigonella

Firefighters have been battling dozens of wildfires on the island of Sicily that broke out on Thursday during a period of “sirocco”, strong winds that originate in the Sahara. Since the fires started at around the same time, it is likely that arson is to blame, and perhaps coordinated arson.

Below are excerpts from an article in The Telegraph:


“Authorities have pointed the blame at mafia mobsters allied with unscrupulous developers who hope to build villas and holiday homes on the torched land, as well as disgruntled forest rangers who were recently sacked after being found guilty of collusion with Cosa Nostra.

The fires broke out within hours of each other on Thursday, suggesting that they were deliberately lit in a carefully coordinated plan.

“We don’t yet have the proof but we suspect that there are criminal interests behind these fires,” said Rosario Crocetta, the governor of Sicily. “It horrifies me that criminals in Sicily would set fire to national parks and centuries-old woodland, but there are speculative interests behind the fires.”

wildfires Sicily
Photo via Naval Air Station Sigonella


Fires also broke out around Messina and in the Nebrodi national park in eastern Sicily.

Last month the park’s director narrowly escaped an assassination attempt when armed men ambushed his car at night and sprayed it with bullets.

The murder attempt was apparent retribution for Giuseppe Antoci’s efforts to crack down on mafia bosses making millions of euros by defrauding EU funds intended for farmers living within the park.

There was speculation that the arsonists might include some of the dozens of forest rangers who were sacked two months ago after they were found to have links with the mafia or to have deliberately set fires in the past, apparently as a way of guaranteeing that their fire-fighting services would be used.

Sicily employs around 23,000 full-time and auxiliary forest rangers, an enormous number considering its size and the fact that it is not a particularly forested part of Italy.

Critics say many were appointed as part of a corrupt system of political cronyism, with politicians able to rely on the votes of people they find jobs for.”

wildfires Sicily
Photo via Naval Air Station Sigonella

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.