The Israeli delegation of firefighters pose in front of a plane in Montenegro..
(photo credit: POLICE SPOKESPERSON'S UNIT)
A delegation of elite Israeli firefighters, aided by the Air Force’s Fire Squadron, completed a five-day relief mission Sunday in Montenegro to put out wildfires ravaging the country’s coastline since last Monday.
Fueled by strong winds and arid conditions, the fires on the Lustica Peninsula in southern Montenegro forced at least 100 tourists to evacuate, and spread along the Adriatic Sea coastline to neighboring Croatia.
At least 16 people were treated for smoke inhalation.
The Montenegro Interior Ministry deployed its navy to evacuate the area by sea, and asked for international aid via the European Union Disaster Relief System.
According to Croatian TV, fires around Srinjine, near the popular tourist destination Split, destroyed 4,500 hectares of pine forest and scrubland since it started. Thousands more hectares of land were burned down in Montenegro.
After initially being grounded due to high winds and turbulence, firefighting planes began battling the blazes late on Monday. Although no casualties have been reported, several homes, a kindergarten, offices, and a cemetery were destroyed.
The first Israeli AT-802 Air Force plane arrived in Montenegro on Wednesday. After preparations were made to battle the blazes, a second fully-equipped AT-802 was deployed Thursday.
During the operation, dubbed “Black Mountain,” Israeli firefighters dropped 78,000 liters of fire retardant in Montenegro while carrying out 36 sorties that lasted more than 42 hours.
“A coordinated plan of action was adopted in which the Israeli firefighters received responsibility for extinguishing a number of major fire sites, which reflected the relative advantages of the Israeli squadron,” police said in a Sunday statement.
“The firefighters, who serve as field officers in the squadron’s fire brigade, joined the local firefighting forces and prepared the aerial firefighting operations from the ground. The Israeli delegation had fast results, gaining control over all of the fire sites under its responsibility and winning great enthusiasm and admiration from the locals.”