Fire is the biggest disaster that can strike nature and communities that depend on the destroyed natural resources. Nothing can compare to the extent of the damage fire can cause as it engulfs dry forests in fall. Hailstorms, avalanches and floods are far less damaging than forest fires in respect of long-term consequences. Fire can, perhaps, only be compared to the damage human activities can cause to rivers, forests and the living world. In fact, forest fires are mostly caused by human negligence, so they can be classified as a part of the negative impact of human activities. Stara Planina (Balkan Mountains) is stricken by fire from time to time, but the scope of devastation has never been as serious as in the fall of 2019. It took only one afternoon for the wildfire to spread from the territory of Bulgaria to the Serbian side of the mountain, moving into two directions. From the Ivankovica Slope, it spread over to the peaks of Vražja Glava and Tri Čuke, all the way to Bratkova Slope, engulfing huge areas covered in indigenous coniferous trees, which are located in the 1st protection level zone of the Stara Planina Nature Park. Residents of Topli Do, hikers and activists engaged in river defense stationed at the bridge over the Toplodolska River were the first to notice a large cloud of smoke looming over the mountain. In the late afternoon, the smoke started turning into an orange blaze coming from the east, and, as day turned into night, one could see the flames viciously sweep over individual conifers at mountain slopes.
Ivica Veljković, president of the Local Community of Dojkinci, Aleksandar Dragić and three DRSP activists took an off-road vehicle and headed toward Beleg, a mountain slope that revealed the true extent of ever-growing devastation. They arrived after midnight and encountered a developing crown fire, which engulfed the edges of the Arabinje complex of coniferous trees. They proceeded to notify the amateur radio service and the police and fire protection service of Pirot. They were then forced to leave the area as fire threatened to cut them away from their vehicle and the only way back to Dojkinci. The following morning and the next four days were cataclysmic. However, this was covered up as media outlets only reported of a minor fire of low vegetation and pastures. As the police and fire protection units gathered at the location and begun an extensive fire extinguishing procedure, the incompetence of local authorities once again surfaced as they proved unable to act independently of the state crisis centers. Thus, the extinguishing actions were merely limited to groundwork, while the much-needed help from fire-extinguishing aircraft was not provided. Nevertheless, residents of Topli Do, Dojkinci and Pirot joined forces with the employees of Srbijašume (public forest management enterprise) and police and fire protection units in the fight against the raging fire until it was completely quenched. The employees of these official bodies exhibited a great level of dedication and self-sacrifice. Along with the locals and activists, they fought at two frontlines. The people of Topli Do extinguished fire in the upper streams of Javorska and Studenačka rivers and around Krvave Bare, whereas the people of Dojkinci headed to the area of Međa Planina, the Tri Čuke Peak and the Tri Kladenca Plateau. The fire subsided towards the beginning of the fifth day as rain and snow helped put out a large section of the area stricken by fire coming from the direction of the Javorska River towards the vast area of Midžor and Dugo Bilo. As the situation got under control, the remaining patches of fire were extinguished in the next two days. Topli Do, a key center for river defense actions, thus also became a fire protection center. It hosted units for food preparation and distribution and was the starting point for the transport of firefighters and local people. The DRSP activists also had an important role in all these activities. The fire ended up destroying tens of thousands of hectares of land covered in beech and spruce forests and mountain pastures. The Russian aviation aid arrived two days too late, so it poured water over the remaining ashes covering the mountain, making the disgrace of not having called for aid sooner even more obvious. Still, the ones who were to blame for these errors were given medals and commended at a media conference that took place in an empty mountain lodge in Dojkinci. On the other side of the mountain in Topli Do, the hotspot of the firefighting activities, hundreds of firefighters, local people and activists had to postpone lunch and the return to the village in snow and freezing rain so that the “gentlemen” would have time to figure out the best political scenario for their photoshoot. The fire was beaten, but the sloppy and incompetent politicians were not – like weeds, they always manage to survive.
Share the info

Do you support defending the rivers of Balkan Mountains?