Croatia’s wildfire season has been an intense one in 2022. Data from European Forest Fire Information System show about 40 active fires in the country.
One of the latest fires sparked in the hinterland of Šibenik and Vodice, on the central Dalmatian coastline, burning houses, fields, olive groves and vineyards.
The full extent of the damage is yet to be determined, as are the causes of the fire. The extraordinarily high temperatures and wind has made extinguishing these blazes more difficult.See Also:Signs of Life from Millenary Olive Tree Burned in Sardinian Wildfires
However, the origin of one of the most recent fires was well documented, after a traffic accident on a rural stretch of highway resulted in a fire that burned 657 olive trees on the Dolina Maslina estate.
“It was terrible, but thank God no one was fatally injured. We are all alive,” said Valentin Krtalić, an agronomist who runs the day-to-day operations at the family olive grove.
The fire occurred after a 23-year-old Croatian national lost control of his car on a stretch of highway between Zadar and Šibenik. After crashing through a fence and overturning the vehicle ignited and burst into flames.
The resulting fire spread across the dry grass and low vegetation before engulfing the olive grove.
Fortunately, the driver escaped from the vehicle and was transferred to the hospital in Zadar.
“It’s a miracle. It’s a real miracle that he survived,” said Krtalić, who was in his groves with his family when the event occurred.
“We pruned the young olive trees planted last year,” he added. “When we were getting ready to go home, our daughters saw the fire.”
The olive grove is located 50 meters from the highway, so the fire quickly reached the first rows of olive trees. Before extinguishing the fire, Krtalići went to assist the injured young man, who other motorists were already helping.
“The most important thing is that the young man is alive,” Krtalić said. He added that it was a “miracle” how he managed to escape from the car after it rolled over.
After administering first aid, an ambulance took him to the hospital. Firefighters also arrived and came to douse the flames. With the help of the firefighters, Krtalić prevented the fire from causing more widespread damage to his trees.
Combined, they grow 33,000 trees on 100 hectares, the largest organic olive grove in Croatia. From these groves, the families have produced many award-winning extra virgin olive oils.
Plastić has gained further notoriety recently for sea-aging his olive oils to try and preserve their qualities for longer.
The three families acknowledged that they were quite lucky the fire was stopped before it could do more serious damage. However, they worry that the phenomenon is becoming increasingly worse.
“Last year, 120 trees burned. Now it’s 657,” said Mirko Krtalić, the owner of Dolina Maslina. “There are more than 13,000 left. The most important thing is that the young man from the car survived. We will restore the olive trees.”
Krtalići knows that compensation for burned olive groves is minimal. Only the costs of the expected one-year crop are paid, not the multi-year effort to grow and maintain the trees nor the expected yield burned in the fire.
For example, one of the olive growers whose 4,000-year-old olive trees burned in the Šibenik hinterland received 240 Croatian Kuna (€32) of compensation, less than 5 percent of the estimated damage.
In another case, 60 olive trees burned on the estate of Tima Santini in Turnje a few years ago. He only asked for compensation for the costs of felling and restoration of the olive trees, but he said he did not receive any funds.
“It is important to keep our heads up,” Mirko and Valentin Krtlaić concluded. “There will be olives. Only human lives are irreplaceable.”