Mountain Fires in Romania, Fought with Rudimentary Means

Plastic bags filled with tap-water, waiting to be loaded onto the aircraft

Plastic bags filled with tap-water, thrown off helicopters, shovels and brooms. This is what Romanian fire-fighters and forest rangers are using in the battle against the forest fires that have been raging since the 20th of July, at high altitudes, in the Carpathian mountains. In the Bucegi Natural Reservation, on Monday alone the helicopter flew 11 sorties, at each of them being only able to deliver 35 bags full of water, the equivalent of half a ton, over the burning vegetation. Fire-fighters on the ground keep filling the plastic bags with water, loading them onto the craft and then crossing their fingers that the pilots don’t miss the target. Right next to the flames, other fire-fighters are trying to put out the flames with brooms and shovels, since the fire engines simply can not make it to the scene.

The helicopter, a Soviet-made MI-8 transport craft belonging to the Ministry of the Interior, has been attempting for several days to help contain the fires, that were triggered by the scorching heat wave affecting Romania since the middle of June. But the pilots very often can not even get close to the fire, either because the height is out of the craft’s flying range or simply because the winds are too strong. 100 fire-fighters and forest rangers are doing what they can to keep the fires under control. Fire trucks are useless, since the fires are three and a half hour’s climb from the nearest accessible roads. The Secretary of the Environment, Mrs. Rovana Plumb, announced that the Romanian government will purchase a fire helicopter as soon as possible, but, so far, the fire brigades shall have to make do with what they have.

Fires rage as high as 2000 metres, far out of the helicopter’s range

In Harghita, five hectares of forest have already been reduced to cinder and authorities blame berry-pickers for starting the flames. Two engine-pumps have been thrown in the battle, but the equipment is a far cry from enough. Several hectares of forest are on fire in Făgăraș and Harghita, while in the Bucegi mountains, over 2000 square metres of dried up vegetation are slowly burning. In Făgăraș, 10 hectares of vegetation are burning and the fires are approaching the forest area. The fires there are believe to have been started by lightning.

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