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Fires burn on across Balkans

Widespread wildfires in Albania, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Montenegro.

By - 04.09.2017

The heat wave across much of southern Europe this summer has once again brought wildfires around the Balkan peninsula.

Firefighters, armies and citizens have been tackling blazes in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Montenegro for over two months. In many cases the causes of the fires have been due to negligence, while in others they have been deliberately set.

Many parts of Europe have been heavily affected by an increase in the number of fires this year, with some sources estimating that there have been more than a thousand blazes across the continent already in 2017. Experts suggest that climate change is at least partially responsible for the rising number.

With many of the fires in the Balkans still raging, it is almost impossible to estimate the damage to date or the various costs.

'The fire has swallowed huge pine forests, endemic plants have disappeared, and the animals have left their habitats in fear of the fire.''

- Photographer Hrvoje Polan — Velebit, Croatia.
'I think it is time … to define places where all the available equipment will be and to have a coordinated system as well as a 122 [emergency number] system.”

- Jelenka Milicevic, federal finance minister who is also responsible for civil protection in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, referring to her country’s complicated governance structures on August 24.

One topic that has been almost completely neglected is how this will affect the ecosystem across the region.

Cedomir Crnogorac, a professor of physical geography from Banja Luka, warns that each wildfire causes huge damage to woods and fertile soil.

“After each wildfire, afforestation is needed. And in Bosnia, hardly anybody is doing that so I suspect that the biggest part of the area with fires will stay just with no forest or anything,” he said adding that the fires are also forcing many animals to leave specific areas.