One Year After a Devastating Fire in Montenegro, Farmers Continue to Rebuild

While a court ruled that olive growers were entitled to some compensation, the emotional and cultural pains endure.

Aug. 24, 2022
By Ćazim Alković

Recent News

Ćazim Alković is pres­i­dent of the Bar Association of Olive Growers.


On August 12, 2021, a large fire engulfed the vil­lage of Mrkojevića near Bar, Montenegro. As the court expert later estab­lished, the fire was sparked by a faulty trans­mis­sion line that ran through the area.

Mrkojevići is known for the cul­ti­va­tion of var­i­ous crops, espe­cially olives. As a result of the fire, cen­turies-old olive groves suf­fered exten­sive dam­age.

A coali­tion of local cit­i­zens, mem­bers of a local olive grow­ers soci­ety, grove own­ers and fire­fight­ers led a super­hu­man fight to extin­guish the fire.

See Also:In Montenegro, Producers Join in World Competition Bid

However, the flames had already swal­lowed every­thing in their path, includ­ing cen­te­nary olive trees. The fight against the fire lasted until the early morn­ing, when it was finally brought under con­trol.

The lead­er­ship of the Bar Olive Association vis­ited the affected groves in the morn­ing and quickly orga­nized a meet­ing with the olive grow­ers who suf­fered dam­age to agree on fur­ther steps and action.

There was a lot of emo­tion at the meet­ing. Growers tear­fully talked about how the olive trees planted by their grand­fa­thers and even great-grand­fa­thers dis­ap­peared before their eyes.

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It was not just a mate­r­ial loss. It hurt much more; a trea­sure cre­ated for gen­er­a­tions, handed down as a bequest and left to the heirs, was dis­ap­pear­ing.

The num­ber of wholly destroyed and par­tially dam­aged olive trees was tal­lied at the meet­ing.

Overall, 749 cen­te­nary olive trees were destroyed, while more than 400 were per­ma­nently dam­aged. Additionally, the flames irrepara­bly dam­aged 267 other fruit trees, includ­ing pears, figs, quinces and vines.

Even the old­est res­i­dents of Mrkojevići do not remem­ber a fire that caused more dam­age than this one.

The Bar Olive Association made a pre­lim­i­nary report of the dam­age and informed the munic­i­pal­ity of Bar and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management. The asso­ci­a­tion also called on both to help the olive grow­ers repair the dam­age as quickly as pos­si­ble.

The munic­i­pal­ity of Bar also acted quickly and, on the ini­tia­tive of the Bar Olive Association, paid each olive grower €100 per destroyed cen­te­nary tree and for dam­aged trees in pro­por­tion to the esti­mated dam­age.

The asso­ci­a­tion was also in con­tact with the pros­e­cu­tion, pro­vid­ing mate­r­ial, pho­to­graphic and video evi­dence that a fault in the trans­mis­sion line caused the fire.

The evi­dence also was sub­mit­ted by the court to the autho­rized expert. After a detailed analy­sis, the expert con­cluded that the fire was caused by a fault in the power line, which was a pre­req­ui­site for the olive grow­ers to file pri­vate law­suits against the Electric Power Company of Montenegro.

Court pro­ceed­ings in sim­i­lar cases take a long time, but the court ruled in favor of the olive grow­ers due to the mate­r­ial evi­dence and expert find­ings.

The mate­r­ial dam­age will now be com­pen­sated, even though the emo­tional and cul­tural value of the cen­turies-old trees can­not.

The asso­ci­a­tion also was in con­stant con­tact with the olive grow­ers and helped them make plans to revi­tal­ize the olive groves after the fire.

Most olive grow­ers cut down the com­pletely burned trees and cov­ered the trunks with new soil. Almost every tree cut in this way has yielded a new olive sapling.

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Some olive grow­ers did not want to cut down the dam­aged trees and instead left them to see if they would sprout young shoots.

Some trees have put out shoots, but the dilemma remains whether such a dam­aged tree can return to its orig­i­nal state.

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The non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tion INFOSPORT Bar, headed by activist Miodrag Banović, also orga­nized to help olive grow­ers. Local busi­nesses in Bar pro­vided exca­vat­ing equip­ment to help clear the burned land and pre­pare it for new plant­ing.

Banović also pro­vided 100 olive seedlings for the dam­aged olive groves, which were planted in this cam­paign.

After more than a year since the fire, the eco­nomic dam­age caused to the olive grow­ers was sig­nif­i­cant. However, the his­tor­i­cal and cul­tural dam­age to the region is even more con­sid­er­able.


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