Two students ordered to pay $15 million each for starting wildfire in Italy

wildfire lake Como Italy
Firefighters suppress a wildfire at Lake Como on Monte Berlinghera. Varese News

Two 22-year old students accused of accidentally starting a wildfire have each been fined €13,500,000 ($15,200,000). The fire burned about 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) near Lake Como in Italy, ignited, investigators determined, by embers from the barbecue at a home owned by the grandfather of one of the two men.

Firefighters battled the blaze for about a week on Monte Berlinghera after it started on December 30, 2018 during dry conditions when a nearby weather station recorded wind gusts up to 62 mph.

In addition to the fine the men could face civil suits from property owners  affected by the fire.

Below is an excerpt from an article at BBC:

La Stampa reports that the regulation calls for a fine of €118–€593 per square metre. The damage the two men were liable for was calculated at some 6,840 square metres, the newspaper said – resulting in a fine of between €8m and €40m.

A lawyer for one of the students told the newspaper that any sentence should be meaningful and have a point.

“What is the sense to impose an administrative sanction… already knowing that the two boys, still students, cannot pay it?” she said.

However, the prosecutor told local news outlet Il Giorno Como that the fine was “a signal that we need to push people to greater responsibility in protecting the environment”.

wildfire lake Como Italy

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Mike. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Fascinating cloud images

A couple of similar fascinating photos of clouds are floating around on Twitter, supposedly showing a cumulonimbus cloud near Genoa, or “Genova”, Italy shot by Roberto Orlando.

One of them, #1 below, looks like there is a possibility it is smoke from a vegetation fire with a large plume that develops into a huge anvil-shaped pyrocumulus cloud. One feature that makes it look similar to a smoke column is that it appears to be close to the ground — however you can’t see the ground. It was shot with a 34mm lens (see below), so it was either an extremely large cloud, or it was not very far away — or both.

The other, #2, looks like a large cumulonimbus, but with a slight possibility of a smoke column on the right side. Both seem to have been shot minutes before sunset (this one was probably shot last), giving the clouds an orange/red tint.

Both of the tweets said the photos are from September 19. We checked, and the MODIS heat sensing satellite did not detect any large fires near Genoa, Italy on that date this year or on any Sept. 19 in the last five years.

At first I wondered if one or both were fake images, but a search found an account for Roberto Orlando on 500px that has photo #1, titled “Genoa, Just a cloud”. The metadata for the image says: Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100, 34mm, 1/500s, ISO 200 .

Image #1:

Image #2:

Continue reading “Fascinating cloud images”

Fires in Sicily and on Italian mainland — tourists evacuated by boat, slopes of Mt. Vesuvius burn

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Above: Satellite photo from July 12, 2017 showing smoke from fires burning near Mount Vesuvius in Italy. The red dots represent heat from the fires. NASA.

(Originally published at 11:40 a.m. MDT July 13, 2017)

Two fires in Italy, one on the mainland and another on the island of Sicily, are in the news today.

The fire on Sicily came very close to the Calampiso Resort 15 air miles northwest of Trapani and had authorities worried that tourists would be endangered by the fire directly, or trapped at the end of the dead end road leading to the community.

The Italian paper La Stampa quoted one evacuated tourist, Stella Belliotti, as saying: “We fled in swimwear and slippers. Our apartment was engulfed in flames. They were right above us. I took my daughter and I went to the beach. They made us go on the boats that go around Zingaro. First women and children, and then the others.”

Various reports say that 700 to 1,000 tourists were evacuated by boat from the Calampiso Resort and taken to San Vito Lo Capo 5 miles by boat to the northwest where the mayor, Matteo Rizzo, appealed on Facebook for residents to pick up the evacuees:

We need minibuses and cars to pick people up at the little port and take them to school buildings. Let’s all do something.

There were no reports of injuries.

Calampiso Resort
File photo of the Calampiso Resort area as seen from the access road. Google Street View.
3-D map Calampiso Resort Sicily
A 3-D view of the Calampiso Resort area on the northern end of Sicily. Google Earth.

Numerous wildfires have been burning on the mainland of Italy on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius and nearby the volcano. The huge plume of smoke led some to believe that Vesuvius was erupting again. The last time it erupted was in 1944, but it is most famous for the 79 AD eruption that destroyed Pompeii.

map fires Mount Vesuvius Sicily
Vicinity map of southern Italy and the island of Sicily. Google Earth.
wildfires Mount Vesuvius
July 12, 2017 satellite image of wildfires at Mount Vesuvius. Copernicus Sentinel data, processed by ESA.


Wildfire in Italy causes major problems at airport

Below is an excerpt from a Reuters article about how smoke from a wildfire partially shut down the runways at an airport near Rome (map) on Wednesday.


“Rome’s Fiumicino airport resumed full operations after smoke from a forest fire on Wednesday forced Italy’s busiest hub to suspend takeoffs and restrict landings.

Airline Alitalia announced the resumption of services in a Tweet several hours after the blaze broke out in one of several forests of pine trees near the airport.

Forest rangers said in a statement that the blaze had affected about 40 hectares (100 acres) of a nature reserve that totals some 16,000 acres. Whipped by high winds, the fire was brought under control by fire-fighting planes that dropped water on the area.

The blaze “appears” to have been set intentionally and is under investigation, an Interior Ministry official said. It is the second fire to have hindered airport operations since May.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi commented that if the fire was set intentionally, it would be a “very grave” attack on the country’s “tourism and economy”, according to sources in his office.”

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Mark.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.