MILAN (AP) – Firefighters worked Thursday to extinguish the remains of two wildfires on a Sicilian island, forcing fashion designer Giorgio Armani and dozens of others to flee their vacation villas overnight.
A photo from the island of Pantelleria showed flames appearing to penetrate Armani’s villa, but the Italian designer’s news agency said they stopped near the property. Armani and guests are evacuated to a boat in the harbor.
The region’s civil defense chief Salvatore Cocina said arson was suspected in two wildfires that forced about 30 people to take refuge in boats or on safer parts of the island. Firefighters used Canadair aircraft to extinguish the flames, along with ground teams to protect homes. Authorities said no structures appeared to be lost.
The island’s mayor, Vincenzo Campo, told Italy’s ANSA news agency that two planes were putting out the last flames over difficult terrain and that the wind had died down.
“After the great fear of last night and the night at work, Pantelleria is returning to normal,” Campo said. “Looks like the worst is over.”
Local officials appealed for information that could help identify the cause of the fire, which started in two places 400 meters (a quarter of a mile) apart.
Located between Sicily and Tunisia, Pantelleria is a popular beach and hiking destination with ancient archaeological sites and natural geographic formations.
Scientists say global warming will continue to make the weather more extreme and wildfires will continue to be more frequent and destructive. Much of western Europe has seen little rain this summer, and droughts combined with warm weather have fueled destructive wildfires.
This summer, forest fires in Spain have so far blackened more than 700,000 hectares, the largest area since the European Union began collecting satellite data in 2006.
The EU’s Earth Observation Program said more scorching weather was forecast for Spain as two “disastrous” wildfires burned in the eastern part of the country. The fires in the Mediterranean provinces of Alicante and Castellón have each charred more than 13,000 hectares, the EU agency said.
Meanwhile, authorities in Portugal reported that a nearly two-week wildfire in the pine forests of Serra da Estrela National Park had been brought under control. However, officials warned of weather forecasts pointing to a dangerous new heat wave coming soon.
High temperatures, strong winds and a severe drought helped keep the fire going in the park, where deep canyons and steep slopes make firefighting difficult.
More than 1,100 firefighters remained in the Serra da Estrela, keeping an eye out for hot spots and embers that could be blown into pristine forest, the Civil Protection Agency, a government department, said.
According to European Union data, the fire charred more than 26,000 hectares of forest, about a quarter of the area of the park.
On Wednesday, the fire was 100 miles (160 km) in circumference, emergency services said, and it jumped 125-meter-wide firebreaks that had been cleared since the last major fire in the area, in 2017.
Fire officials said this was an indication that the country is fighting a “new generation” of wildfires that are harder to stop amid the effects of climate change.
Temperatures in Portugal are set to begin to soar, reaching 39 degrees Celsius (102.2 F) inland on Saturday as the country weathers the third heat wave of the summer.
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