A wildfire is consuming Slovenia and as the blaze moves across areas that were once battlefields during World War I, it’s meeting century-old unexploded ordnance with deadly results. According to the Slovenian press, fire swept across a WWI-era bomb on July 22 and detonated it while firefighters worked nearby. Shrapnel buzzed the firefighters but no one was hurt. It’s just one of many such bombs that have exploded due to the fire; officials have stopped counting detonations due to their sheer number, local news reported, only marking ones that explode near roads.
As first spotted by Task & Purpose, unexploded ordnance from World War I and II are a major problem in Europe. More than 1,000 firefighters and portions of the Slovenian military are working to contain the blaze, which has spread to almost 5,000 acres of land. “The problem is that because of the unexploded ordnance firefighting units cannot penetrate into the fire but can only act on its edges. This is why the fire is being intensively fought from the air as well,” Slovenian defense minister Marjan Šarec told the press.
The area where the fire rages was the site of 12 battles during World War I. More than 200,000 people died and untold numbers of explosives were used. It’s a major problem across Europe that lingers to this day. The Royal Air Force and U.S. Army Air Force dropped 2.7 million tons of bombs on Europe during World War II alone. Seventy years later, those bombs are still killing people.
Finding and disposing of that material is deadly work. In France, the remnants of the first World War are called the récolte de fer or Iron Harvest. Since the end of World War II, 630 bomb disposal officers have died in France alone.
The heat in Europe is already deadly without the thread of unexploded ordnance thrown in the mix. The wildfires aren’t isolated to Slovenia, there’s one raging in Spain as well where more than 1,000 people have died from heat and fire related causes. It’s so hot in the UK that birds are falling from the sky.
It’s estimated that clearing Europe of munitions from the World Wars will take another 100 years. It was already dangerous work and it’ll be far more dangerous as the planet continues to heat up, unabated.