Patocco: A jewel in the Julian Alps

Memories of the great fire

A day of horrors – 4 August 2013

five years ago

Lest we should forget, today is the fifth anniversary of the day when fire seriously threatened the dwellings of Patocco, and breached the natural barrier that was Rio Chiout Cali to engulf the whole northern flank of the Val Raccolana. The fire had already been burning for more than three weeks around the summit of Monte Jovet and, despite major firefighting efforts was getting lower towards the village. Read more: THE GREAT FIRE OF 2013 – PART 1

Canadair fire fighting aricraft flying low over Patocco
Canadair in Action in Patocco
Canadair plane dropping water on a forest fire
Canadair plane dropping water

On the afternoon of 4th August 2013, one of the hottest days of the year, the wind increased and the flames intensified behind the houses. With great trepidation, the villagers gathered on the hill around the church to watch the unfolding catastrophe. Whilst the firefighters were concentrating on setting a fire behind the houses closest to the blaze to burn a fire break, the flames continued to engulf the forest above the village. Suddenly, at around 19:30 everyone’s attention was drawn to a large fireball which suddenly soared upwards engulfing “il sbrici” from Rio Chiout Cali. Even at a distance of several hundred metres the heat could be felt, and the accompanying roar seemed almost apocalyptic.

Fireball in RIo Chiout Cali Val Raccolana
The moment a fireball engulfs RIo Chiout Cali

Spectators and firefighters were equally helpless as everyone watched dumbfounded at the spectacle they were witnessing. In less than fifteen minutes the rampant flames engulfed “il sbrice” completely, with resin loaded pine trees literally exploding. The whole mountain side was soon ablaze right to the cliffs of Ciuc di Valisetta. The fight to save Patocco continued throughout the night as the flames reached the road above the village designated as a fire break and were brought under control by a team of firefighters with hoses. Read more about Patocco’s day of reckoning

The following video reminds us of some of the experiences and emotions of 4 August 2013.

In the following days the fire continued to burn out of control along the northern side of the Val Raccolana threatening the villages of Chiout Cali, Saletto and Pianni. Here is more of the story of how the fire spread along the valley and the ongoing firefighting efforts.

Fire spreading burning up the Val Raccolana in August 2013

It was not until mid August, after the intervention of a large contingent of Austrian firefighters, and improving weather conditions, that the fire was brought under control before it reached the pastures of Montasio.
Panontin From the Regione FVG thanks the commander of the firefighters from Carinzia
Disaster in the forest - path 620 above Patocco after the fire
Disaster in the forest – path 620 above Patocco after the fire
Il Sbrici – 15 Agosto 2013 – A scene of total devastation

Il Sbrici – 15 August 2016 – little has changed

Further Pictures

The following galeries have more pictures from the great fire and its aftermath.

The dying forest – three years on
Great Fire of 2013 – in Video.
Ashes in Chinop
Val Raccolana in Flames
The Day of Reckoning
The Patocco Forest Fire – July 2013