Everything beyond the crest of the hills surrounding the ecohouse has burned. Woods of cypress trees interspersed with Mediterranean pines, and oak, underbrush of juniper, cistus, wild orchids, roses - all blackened ash. The animals that made it out look at us from our woodland, seeking water and resting places. And we were lucky. The wind drove the fire away from our woods to devour hectares and hectares of classic Tuscan landscape the other side of the hills. We can't even see the devastation just over our skyline - but we can smell it.
All day long the firefighters, the Canadair, the helicopters, gouged fire breaks through secolare landscapes, emptied every site with standing water (the Arno is dry from bank to bank) every swimming pool, as the spotter planes circled, looked for fresh outbreaks. People were being evacuated from settlements and farms, and we were checking that we had everything important and the Landie keys on the shelf by the door ready to take the back route to the village through the olive groves on the rough white roads, so painstakingly restored over the last decade.
The sky was black with smoke and underlit by the flames, with a shimmering in the air from the heat. What we didn't realise was the sky was black too from an enormous thunder cloud that burst over the whole nightmare of burning effort and lives, of men and animals. It hadn't rained since last June but water sluiced down so hard and so cold it hurt to be under it. Which we weren't as soon as the lightning started landing in what felt like the garden. So the fires were doused, the roads turned to river beds and we couldn't have got out then because of the mud.
Where that rain came from with such force is unexplained to non-meteorological mortals (and Angels). The blasting heat is back and the woods have dried again to tinder-boxes. The fire was set deliberately, as are most. Someone knows who did that and, I am told, their family will be made to pay - not by the magistrates and other authorities but by a threatening (and so threatened) community. I'm unsure which is the more scary: the burning of the countryside or the burning of the whole extended family of the fire-setter.