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Wildfires Spread Across the Balkans

August 24, 2000

SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) _ Bulgaria sent troops to help stamp out dozens of wildfires as a heatwave that began in June continued to trigger fires across the Balkans, authorities said Thursday.

The government said that 26 fires were still burning across Bulgaria, with a total of almost 9,000 acres of forest and farmland destroyed.

In the worst-hit area near Chirpan, 110 miles southeast of the capital Sofia, 2,223 acres of forest burned for a sixth day and local authorities have declared a state of emergency.

Bulgaria has said it would seek international aid to offset wildfire losses that have already exceeded $19 million.

The fires have been fueled by temperatures that have topped 104 on some days, which is exceptional even in the hot Balkan summers. Authorities report that seven people have died in Bulgaria since the wildfires began three months ago.

In Croatia, fires continue to burn in 11 areas. Some 535 wildfires have destroyed 50,300 acres of forests and underbrush so far this year, said Petar Jurjevic of the country’s forest service.

Residents of Metkovic, a town of 12,000 that is 30 miles from the coastal city of Dubrovnik, have been warned to prepare for a possible evacuation as fires advance.

In Promina, in the coastal region of Dalmatia, 420 firefighters backed by planes and helicopters were trying to put out a blaze that has already claimed about 7,400 acres of grass, underbrush and forest.

In southern Serbia, residents of Dabinovac watched Thursday as a fire ate its way toward their village in the U.N.-established zone separating Kosovo from Serbia.

Residents claimed that ethnic Albanian villagers from the northern Kosovo region of Podujevo had intentionally set the blaze to try to detonate mines laid in the border area by the Yugoslav army before it retreated from Kosovo.

``If something isn’t done to put out the fire, in 24 hours it will reach Dabinovac,″ farmer Dejan Milosevic said.

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