An unusual report from Italy about the July fires on the Gargano Peninsula. The article below was partially translated by a reader.

Fires in Southern Europe

The news from Gargano [A Peninsula in South Eastern Italy] seem to come from another planet, from a country of the third world. And they are also, partially, false.

According to the man in charge of the Civil Protection - Mr. Bertolaso - "all the fires are the work of pyromaniacs" and all measures were taken [to put out the fires], always according to Bertolaso: for the one who stand behind the television screen, they truth seems inconfutable. At 7 p.m., July 24 - while TV's news networks were getting excited at the Garganian apocalypse - I pick up the phone and call an acquaintance, which manages to run a hotel between Peschici and Vieste. He reassured me: the tragedy is in Peschici, while the situation on the shoreline between Peschici and Vieste is under control. Anyway. The flames, that same morning, were showing up very close to the entrance of his residence: staff and tourists have been working together with water nozzles and chains of buckets. The danger has been averted.

Pyromaniacs? No - hearing him chuckling at the phone - it was eventually some elder peasant who, thoughtlessly, has put the brushwood on fire and then lost control of it. On the other hand: why ignite a fire to the very structures that bring forth wealth and goods for the whole community? What kind of innkeeper doesn't sell oil, vegetables, bread and cheeses to tourists, and those who don't have anything to sell are restaurateurs or men busy in the boat renting business.

To sum it up, it's difficult to believe that they're shooting themselves on the foot after all, especially if you know those persons and know that they're betting entirely on that very summer season to earn anything from tourists.

We do not follow science fiction-like truths here. I'm asking about the weather: 43 C. degrees with strong and dry sirocco wind. Beginning to meditate on it all, remembering the brushwood where only few months ago we were collecting capers by dry grass in May, between barren cliffs and, unfortunately, too much rubbish. Cans and glasses are not an unusual encounter. In these conditions, I ponder, a piece of glass on dry grass is enough, and the fire is assured. Then, almost to relieve my feelings, he tells me that - after having extinguished the flames near the residence - now they have a better outlook of the whole situation.

The thing that surprised him, was to acknowledge that - by a near lawn grown up by few olives - the flames seemed to gush from the earth itself. Without warning, while walking, you could see the smoke and immediately after that, flames arising from the ground. That's it, out of nowhere. They managed to fix the situation by running back and forth for hours, with water buckets at hand, in order to put out the mysterious fires that seemed to escape from under the ground. We noticed: neither fires nor pyromaniacs were close to us at this point, so far.

Probably, and that's it since it has never been taken in due consideration, we would have to carefully estimate the moisture of the soil. The only Environment Protection Agency that actually publish stuff like that - and of which I'm aware of - is that of Emilia-Romagna [Northern Italy]. If past summer's data is taken into account, we'll see that an African-like drought has reached many areas of the Emilia Romagna: and Emilia is not at all like Puglia [Southern Italy], with the sirocco at 43 degrees!