Already twice as many forest fires this year in Spain compared to last year

by Lorraine Williamson
forest fires this year

The Spanish fire brigade has already had to extinguish 15 major forest fires this year. Together, they have reduced more than 500 hectares of land to ashes. Until August last year, there were 15. However, this does not even include the devastating forest fire in Ávila. 

This is evident from data from the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge. This year also saw more large forest fires than the average for this period over the past ten years (11 large forest fires). Only in 2012 (30) and in 2017 (16) were there even more than in 2021. In 2019, 12 major wildfires occurred in the period up to 15 August. 

Between January 1 and August 15, the fires in Spain destroyed 46,468.94 hectares of natural land. That is 52.38% more than in the comparable period of 2020. But 19.52% less than the average for the past ten years. Of the nearly 46,500 hectares of burnt natural land, more than 25,000 hectares were shrubbery and open forest. Also, nearly 17,000 hectares were woodland and a further 4,000 hectares were pastureland. 

A total of almost 6,000 fires this year 

If all smaller fires are included, there were 5,942 until August 15. Of these, however, 3,802 were nipped in the bud. And so these fires did not burn more than one hectare of land. However, 2,140 fires each reduced more than a hectare of natural land to ashes, 15 of which were large forest fires. 

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The fires occurred all over Spanish territory, but most (38.09%) started in the northwestern part of the country. 38.67% of the fires occurred inland, 21.74% in the Mediterranean coastal area, and 0.49% in the Canary Islands. 

These figures will change significantly once the aforementioned ministry has incorporated data on recent forest fires, including the one in Ávila, into its statistics. The Castile and León administration estimates that about 22,000 hectares of natural land have been destroyed by the great fire. 

Largest wildfire in history was in 2004 

Looking at the period from 2000, the biggest fires in Fuenterrabía were in 2010 (500 hectares of destroyed land); the fire in Cortes de Pallas (Valencia) in 2012 (with almost 29,000 hectares the most devastating fire) and that in Andilla (Valencia) in 2012 (22,510 hectares). Looking at the entire history of forest fires, the largest occurred in 2004, in the municipalities of Minas de Riotinto and Berrocal (Huelva) and Seville, where 29,867 hectares of natural land were lost. 

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