Serbia –– After a season of high temperatures and drought, dozens of wildfires continue to rage across the Western Balkans, with Serbia hit the hardest.
While a number of wildfires have been mostly contained by teams of firefighters, the military and volunteers, fires continue to blaze across Serbia and the Western Balkans, in what has been an exceptionally dry year punctuated by extreme heat waves.
The two parts of Serbia hit hardest by the fires have been the Tara National Park, a popular tourist destination, and the area around the central Serbian town of Cacak.
Dragan Sreckovic, a monitoring and evaluation co-ordinator at the Institute for Sustainable Communities, was on holiday at Tara National Park when the fires first ignited. Sreckovic describes his experience for SETimes:
“In the morning at 5 a.m. we were awoken by the smell of fire and something burning and we were really scared, my wife and I, but we didn’t want to panic, later at 7 or 8, when we went for breakfast, we heard there was a small fire in front of our hotel.”
Several villages near Cacak were evacuated. Fields of corn, withered by the drought, were burned to the ground. Slobodan Ocokoljic of Cacak, a research associate at the Belgrade Open School, tells SETimes about the conditions in the area.
“During the night there is a fog from all of the smoke and it’s hard to breathe. The fires aren’t in Cacak in the centre, but in the villages around the city. The situation is not critical, but of course people are scared, they are worrying. It’s not a pleasant atmosphere to be in.”
Meanwhile, wildfires also raged in the neighbouring Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the Bratunac region of eastern Bosnia, helicopters of the European Union’s BiH peacekeeping force were deployed to help bring wildfires under control. Many local volunteers also assisted.
Dobrivoje Sekeljic, a retired employee of the ministry of the interior whose duties included fire systems protection and organising mobile units, explains to SETimes how such fires often begin.
“Wildfires are caused by lack of human care and extreme natural conditions. Longlasting high temperatures and droughts in the forests make bushes, leaves and trees too dry.”
The fires are expected to end this autumn as the dry season comes to an end.