Living here more than 10 years now, the summer has become a permanent stress period with bushfires threatening crop and vineyards. Since our severe bushfire damage in 2007, I decided not to make any more trips abroad during summer and stay here in the valley, in permanent stand-by for fire extinction.
Driving back up and into the valley from the beach with family on Sunday 5th, our daughter Clara’s birthday, we were looking around for smoke, indicating fires. And bingo! There was a big smoke column in the approximate position of our Barbabecchi vineyard… A bit stressed I pushed down the peddle of our Subaru and rushed up the valley via the “Quota Mille”, the high road connecting Linguaglossa and Randazzo. I felt relief as the fire was behind the “Baronessa” forest, and some 5km away from our Barbabecchi vineyard. On the other hand the flames were frighteningly high and we turned around as the road was blocked due to the danger. My wife Aki was scared. This was not a small bushfire but a serious and extended one which was threatening the Passopisciaro winery and vineyards.
At home I jumped into my working clothes, took the Lada jeep with all the fire extinction equipment and drove to the Passopisciaro winery where Vincenzo, the estate manager, was desperate, surrounded by fire and carbonized bush and severely damaged vineyards… a devastating scenery.
Only in the evening we shared dinner with family and the birthday pie Aki prepared for Clara. When our two kids were sleeping Aki and I were discussing the incredible environmental and economic damage these fires represent. Our 3 year old daughter Clara is growing up in this strange atmosphere and she already recognizes by the sound a Canadair airplane and a helicopter from Forestry service…
On Tuesday 6th I took the car early afternoon to make my daily reconnaissance tour around our vineyard sites to double check wether there were no fires. I made a detour to check the damage from the Sunday fire and it was frightening… the complete cumb of the Guardiola vineyard above Andrea Franchetti’s winery was carbonized. Driving back down I detected smoke below Solicchiata and drove down to see that there was a serious fire around our Chiusa Spagnolo vineyard! Together with Angelo, one of our workers, we managed to extinguish the fire around our vineyard but the heat still caused the loss of some 1000 Kg of grapes.
Even local people from Solicchiata start to become worried with the fires and feel the negative effects in declining day-tourism because of both the danger as well as the smoke accumulating in the valley during the day. In the long run, the carbonized environment will hardly attract people and so local tourism will suffer.
Only a week ago I had prepared with our agronomic/organic consultant a plan for approval by the Etna forestry service, to plant more chestnut trees in our Marchesa soprano plot where we have 2 ha of space to re-forest and eventually cooling down the environment around the vineyard. Before sending the plan for approval I will have to double check in the next days this plantation plan for extra fire protection.