Bulgarian authorities say Vitosha blaze contained – again

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borissov became the latest public official on July 5 to declare that the forest fire on Vitosha mountain near Sofia had been contained.

Flanked by numerous reporters invited by the Interior Ministry “to observe the valiant efforts” to fight the fire, Borissov said that the blaze had been reduced to four smaller remnants, but there was no danger of them spreading beyond the burnt-out areas.

Embers of the blaze would continue smouldering over the coming days, so nearby residents could see more smoke as fire-fighters continue to extinguish the last sparks, but the flames have been by-and-large extinguished, Bulgarian National Television reported.

Borissov also gave the first explanation why the aid of Israeli fire-fighting planes was refused, saying that because of the ragged terrain, the planes could not have been used efficiently.

He praised the efforts of fire-fighters and volunteers who braved the difficult terrain in an attempt to prevent the fire from spreading. Those efforts were only partially successful, with the fire expanding from five hectares on July 1 to at least triple the area two days later.

Some volunteers, in past days, have said that the organisation of the fire-fighting activities have been haphazard at best, an accusation that fire-fighting officials have denied.

The fire erupted on July 1 in a nature reserve area, known for the hundreds of dead trees felled by a storm in 2001. The reasons for the fire remain unknown – although the weather has been hot recently, it has not been unusually so, and forest fires on Vitosha mountain are a rare occurrence.

This has led to suspicions that the fires might have been the result of human carelessness. The area’s ragged terrain discourages most tourists from venturing there, but game poachers are said to pass through.

Conspiracy theorists went as far as to suggest that the fire was deliberate arson, pointing to old Vitosha mountains skiing area expansion plans that envisioned that the area affected by the fire would hold a small accumulation lake from where snowmaking machines would draw water as proof that certain business interests had designs on the area.

(Photo: Petar Kardjilov via offnews.offroad-bulgaria.com)



The Sofia Globe staff

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