Two people arrested for arson on farmland in Albania – Released

Two people were arrested over the weekend for intentionally burning farmland, following one of the worst wildfire seasons in Albanian history in the summer of 2021.

A 57-year-old man was arrested in Orikum near Vlore after deliberately setting fire to a field. He was arrested for “destruction of property with fire”. The fire destroyed a stretch of land populated by wild plants and shrubs.

In Tirana County, a 60-year-old man was arrested in the village of Maknor for setting fire to another tract of land. This fire ravaged a field and part of the Maknor forest. He was charged with “destruction of property by fire” and “negligent destruction by fire of forests and the forest environment”.

It is a common practice in Albania for farmers to set fire to the earth to clean it ready for use. Unfortunately, high winds and the lack of proper precautions often lead to fire growth and the destruction of large swathes of countryside.

Last summer and early fall, large parts of the country raged with hundreds of reported wildfires over several months. Rising temperatures and lack of rain have further aggravated the situation.

One of the most concerning took place in the Karaburun Peninsula Protected Area and threatened Llogara National Park. In fires in other parts of the country, two people lost their lives.

A study published in 2013 recommended that the government improve the forest road network to create fire protection boundaries. They also said firefighters should be provided with the necessary equipment to fight fires in hard-to-reach areas. More training should be given to firefighters, and the capacity of volunteer fighters should also be improved.

He also suggested that changes to existing laws be enacted and that coordination and collaboration between institutions and organizations be improved.

The Albanian government is aware of the risks posed by forest fires. There is also plenty of data on historical fires, problem areas and trends that have occurred in recent years. Preventive measures are considered by far the best approach, but despite warnings since 2013, little has been done in terms of implementation.

Meanwhile, confusion and a lack of transparency around the use of helicopters and firefighting assets remain a concern.

The output explains: forest fires, prevention, propaganda and the use of helicopters in Albania

Amalia H. Mercado