Designer Armani and his guests flee a forest fire on a Sicilian island

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MILAN (AP) — Firefighters worked Thursday to extinguish the remnants of two wildfires on a Sicilian island that forced fashion designer Giorgio Armani and dozens of others to flee their vacation villas overnight.

MILAN (AP) — Firefighters worked Thursday to extinguish the remnants of two wildfires on a Sicilian island that forced fashion designer Giorgio Armani and dozens of others to flee their vacation villas overnight.

A photo from the island of Pantelleria showed flames appearing to encroach on Armani’s villa, but the Italian designer’s press office said they stopped short of the property. Armani and his guests were evacuated to a boat in the harbor.

The head of the region’s civil protection agency, Salvatore Cocina, said arson was suspected in two wildfires that forced around 30 people to take refuge in boats or in safer parts of the island. Firefighters used Canadair planes to put out the flames, along with ground crews to protect homes. Authorities said no structures appeared to have been lost.

The island’s mayor, Vincenzo Campo, told Italian news agency ANSA that two planes were working to put out the last flames in difficult terrain and the wind had died down.

“After the big scare last night and the night spent at work, Pantelleria is back to normal,” Campo said. “It seems the worst is over.”

Local authorities have appealed for any information that would help identify the cause of the fire, which started at two locations 400 meters (a quarter of a mile) apart.

Pantelleria, located between Sicily and Tunisia, is a popular beach and trekking destination that includes ancient archaeological sites and natural geographical formations.

Scientists say global warming will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive. Much of Western Europe has seen little rain this summer, and dry conditions coupled with hot weather have fueled destructive wildfires.

So far this summer, forest fires in Spain have blackened more than 700,000 hectares, the largest area since the European Union began collecting satellite data in 2006.

The EU’s Earth Observation Program said hotter weather was predicted for Spain as two “disastrous” forest fires burned in the eastern part of the country. Fires in the Mediterranean provinces of Alicante and Castellón have each charred more than 13,000 hectares, the EU agency said.

Meanwhile, Portuguese authorities reported that a forest fire that had been burning for nearly two weeks in the pine forests of Serra da Estrela National Park had been brought under control. However, officials have warned weather forecasts indicate another dangerous heat wave is coming soon.

High temperatures, high winds and severe drought have helped fuel the blaze in the park, where deep ravines and steep slopes make firefighting difficult.

More than 1,100 firefighters remained in the Serra da Estrela, keeping an eye out for hotspots and embers that could be blown into the untouched forest, the Civil Protection Agency, a government department, said.

The blaze charred more than 26,000 hectares (64,000 acres) of woodland, according to European Union data, about a quarter of the park’s area.

On Wednesday, the perimeter of the blaze measured 160 kilometres, emergency officials said, and jumped 125-metre-wide firewalls that had been cleared since the area’s last major blaze in 2017.

Fire officials said it indicated the country was battling a “new generation” of wildfires that are harder to stop amid the consequences of climate change.

Temperatures in Portugal were expected to start climbing, reaching 39 degrees Celsius (102.2 F) in inland regions on Saturday, as the country experiences its third heat wave of the summer.

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Follow AP’s coverage of climate and environmental issues at https://apnews.com/hub/climate-and-environment

The Associated Press

















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