By Chiara MattiroloSeptember 26, 2018
CAMP DARBY, Italy (Sept. 26, 2018) - U.S. Army firefighters here joined hundreds of Italian firefighters to combat a massive wildfire that broke out in the hills above the city of Pisa during late evening, Sept. 24.
More than 1,500 acres of land were burned in the first hours when the call for assistance was received.
"We received a request for support from Pisa Fire Department to supply water and we immediately activated to get authorizations to respond to their request," said U.S. Army Garrison Italy Fire Chief Andrew Allen. "Our crew was ready, and by 11 a.m., we were able to send our truck with a crew of four firefighters."
Battalion Chief Traci Grant and three Italian host nation firefighters--Federico Concordia, Antonio Salsedo and Alessio Caroti--were directed to the hill town of Calci to provide water for fighting the fire. According to Grant, all went smooth and, despite the emergency of a fast-moving fire, the support was very well organized.
"The crew and I felt very comfortable and confident. As soon as we got to the site, we were assigned a Division Group Supervisor who managed the resources. Immediately we were working alongside firefighters from Lodi (Lombardy) and another from Livorno."
Grant explained that the firefighters in her crew also lent their expertise and knowledge since they volunteer at the Pisa Fire Department and have a knowledge of the territory because it's home to them.
She added her professional experience in fighting fires back in the U.S. was a welcome contribution.
"I have a lot of experience in vegetation fires from my previous assignment in California but this is my first time fighting a fire like this in Italy. Vegetation fires are dynamic and things can quickly change. We supplied water to seven Italian fire trucks and crews who were able to then reach the peak or the mountain where the fire was," said Grant.
The Camp Darby crew helped supply more than 2,500 gallons of water in a short period of time.
The size of the wildfire led to the activation of Camp Darby's emergency operations center and a full accounting of all military and civilian employees quickly took place.
According to Darby officials, four airmen with the U.S. Air Force 731st Munitions Squadron and their families were relocated from the fire area to local hotels. U.S. Army Garrison Italy is prepared to provide shelter and support to other displaced military families and civilians.
According to Allen, Darby firefighters returned to their station and are awaiting any further requests for assistance.
"Our fire crews on Darby are remaining vigilant due to the high winds and dry conditions. Currently the ash and smoke plume is away from Camp Darby," said Allen.
According to news reports, a serial arsonist is suspected, given that multiple fires reported across Pisa and Tuscany.
"Italian firefighters estimate that it will take more than a week to mop up the area. Unlike a 'clean burn' where there are few unburned patches inside the perimeter, this fire has large unburned areas scattered throughout, and that increases the time required to clean up," said Allen.