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4 a.m.  Not the hour at which you want to wake up smelling smoke.

Two nights ago that’s exactly what happened though.  At first I thought, Oh, those wild and crazy neighbors have decided to burn in the middle of the night.  A cursory check, though, suggested that this was not true.  There’s not a lot of light at 4 a.m., but there was enough to see that there was a large cloud of smoke trapped by the still air hanging over our whole valley and that it wasn’t coming either from our neighbors’ houses or from ours.

The next morning all of Rapallo was under a blanket of smoke and we had scratchy throats:

Rapallo in smoke

The beautiful yellow Canadair fire fighting plane arrived first thing, and spent the entire morning flying from the fire to the sea and back again to dump a load of water.  It’s hard to see the plane in this photo, but you can see the reddish spray of the water it has just released.  The water isn’t red – that’s a trick the morning light played on my camera:


(Here’s a video of a Canadair dumping water on a fire at the Istanbul Airport.)

To fight this particular fire, which was on the next hill over from our valley, the planes approached from the north,


made a steep bank, and disappeared behind the hill.  Very fancy flying.  This looks like it couldn’t possibly end well:


but in fact there were no big crashes.  It is mesmerizing to watch the planes coming and going, a round trip they were making in about six minutes for this fire.  And it’s hard to imagine what skill it must require to fly like this.

I went down to the Port later in the morning to see what it all looked like from there.  There was smoke everywhere:

Canadair in smoky Rapallo

And yes!  There’s the brave little plane flying back to the fire.  They wasted no time getting to the water, dropping down right over the port and then scooping it up.

Canadair flying low over port-3

Anita, of GPL fame, lives in Zoagli and took this terrific photograph of the plane picking up the water (thanks for letting me use this, Anita!):


Someone should write a children’s book about these adorable planes – The Little Plane that Could (move over, Little Engine)!  I know there’s nothing cute about what they’re doing, or why they have to do it, but the size, shape and color of the planes is just plain appealing.

Il Secolo XIX reported the next day that there were ten fires set on Montepegli behind Rapallo; boys on motor scooters were seen in the area at the time, and the police are investigating with great seriousness.  We were all lucky.  There was no wind, so though the fires burned 8 hectares (24 acres), the nearby homes on Montepegli were not threatened and residents didn’t have to evacuate.

And you know what’s really crazy?  At least two people in Rapallo woke up that morning and said to themselves, ‘Hey! Great day for a fire!’

Smokey Rapallo 2 firesA

Go figure.