Forest fire on Sofia’s Mount Vitosha under control – minister

Written by on July 3, 2012 in Bulgaria, News - No comments

Fire-fighters and volunteers have prevented the spreading of the forest fire burning on Mount Vitosha near Bulgaria’s capital city Sofia, Agriculture Minister Miroslav Naidenov said on July 3.

The fire was being extinguished using three helicopters, while the efforts of the groundside teams will be on preventing the fire from spreading further, he told the breakfast show private channel bTV.

“This is a biosphere reserve where we cannot touch anything, if it happened in an area not protected by this statute, we would have extinguished the fire by now,” he said.

The fire broke out on the afternoon of July 1 near the village of Bistritsa, with a long plume of smoke visible from most of Sofia. Fire-fighters dispatched to the scene have managed to localise the blaze, with more than 100 volunteers joining in on July 2 and a similar number on Jluy 3.

The area where the fire broke out is known for the numerous trees felled by a storm in 2001. The tall stumps and felled trunks make access extremely difficult, with even all-terrain vehicles finding little manoeuvring space.

Naidenov said that there was no need to ask for international assistance, because the forest fire was very small – about five hectares, but should the need arise, heavy-duty aerial fire-fighting equipment could be hired.

Later in the morning, before scheduled public discussion on amendments to the Forestry Act, Naidenov said, as quoted by broadcaster Darik Radio, that “the opinion that the fire was intentional in order to distract attention from the Forestry Act is extremely ludicrous.”

Thousands of people protested in June in Sofia against the amendments, taking the banner of conservation groups who said that the changes would pave the way for large-scale unregulated redevelopment of forests. The law was vetoed by President Rossen Plevneliev, with Parliament’s agriculture committee now tasked with redrafting the amendments.

Conspiracy theorists have claimed in recent days that the blaze was a convenient way to clear the area for future development; such suspicions are rare for Bulgaria, but commonplace in neighbouring Greece, where summer forest fires are a much larger annual problem.

(Photo: Andreas Krappweis/sxc.hu)

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