It has been a long hot summer here in Levanto and the Cinque Terre, which I suppose most people would find encouraging after the epic destructive floods and landslides of last October. But be careful what you wish for, as your grandmother told you. Long hot summers mean dry grasses and woods everywhere, and the fire danger is extremely high.
In fact, the area around Gallona, the tiny village where we live, has taken the brunt of this danger in the last 4 weeks. First, a forest fire set off by a collapsed electrical wire burnt down a good chunk of the woods above the town. It took three days of helicopters and two days of scooper planes to put it out. And then this week, a new fire burned the hell out of the woods and olive groves and vineyards below the town. This one was much more dangerous because people’s lands and houses were at stake, though all of our neighbors were lucky enough to have their homes saved, though not all of their fields.
But there’s another difference this time: this fire was man-made. Now no one is claiming that it was deliberately done, but all fingers point to some careless burning of some cut branches and canes as the culprit. In an instant, a small controlled fire gets moved by a breath of air, and after three months of no rain, in 30 seconds an entire hillside is in flames. This one was closer to our house, giving us an even better view of the two days of helicopters and one day of scoopers.
So if and when you are in the Cinque Terre, especially in the summer, take the fire warnings seriously. Smoking is prohibited in the entire National Park (and for obvious good reason), and you can get fined for doing it. But more generally, just be aware of the fact that this spectacular landscape which man and nature co-inhabit so precariously, must always be taken care of.