(ANSA) - Rome, July 18 - Wildfires were burning over many parts of Italy Wednesday amid extremely hot, dry weather. From the area around Viterbo in Lazio, to Liguria, Sardinia and Pollino national park in southern Italy, fires were scorching thousands of hectares of forest land, and anything in their path. In the province of Viterbo, flames consumed approximately 80 hectares of forest, including oak, beech and chestnut trees, in the nature reserve of Lake Vico. Firefighters on the ground, supported by aircraft dropping water, fought the blaze which created a smoke haze visible for kilometres around. Meanwhile, firefighters continued to fight a huge blaze sweeping across the Pollino national park which straddles the borders of Calabria and Basilicata in southern Italy. The blaze is believed to have been started deliberately early Monday afternoon and by Wednesday, the flames had already destroyed about 500 hectares of bush. Arsonists are often blamed in forest fires in Italy, and suspicion usually focuses on farmers seeking to clear space for agricultural purposes or land developers hoping to win permits for new constructions. More fires are raging across greater areas of Italy this year as rain refuses to fall across many of the country's most arid zones. The number of fires since the beginning of the year is up by 76% on 2011 and the area burnt has increased by 57%, said the Italian State Forest Police. Dry conditions have turned vast areas into kindling, with rainfall down by 83% overall in Italy, and down by 99% in various parts of the southern and central Italy, as well as Sicily and Sardinia, farmers association Coldiretti said.