Fire in Zamora didn’t have to be so devastating

by Lorraine Williamson
Zamora firefighters
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ZAMORA – On Tuesday evening, more than 5,000 people protested due to the enormous fire that destroyed 30,000 hectares of forest in the Sierra de la Culebra in Zamora. Protesters called for rapid recovery plans, more prevention work, and more firefighters.  

 

In the square and in La Marina Park, indignant citizens chanted slogans and demanded better planning and forest management measures. They want to prevent disasters such as the fire that happened last weekend. 

A representative read a statement by the platform La Culebra no se calla (Culebra does not remain silent). This consisted of 33 organisations and associations from the region. On the podium hung a banner with the inscription “Sierra de la Culebra does not shut up. Recovery and future now!” 

Zamora disaster area 

There was a lot of talk about what went wrong during the four “horror nights” when the scorching fire destroyed everything in its path. The disaster is so great that the central government has declared the area a disaster area. “In Carracedo de Vidriales, the residents had to start putting out the fire themselves because there were not enough firefighters and when they saw the fire jump over the road, they had to go and help,” says a resident of the area when asked about her experiences. 

The population of the area wants more firefighters and officers to be deployed throughout the year. And also to carry out preventive activities such as cleaning the forests. Therefore, in this way, major dramas such as this can at least partly be prevented. 

Moreover, a multitude of banners draw the viewer’s attention to the magnitude of the disaster;

  • “what will our livestock have to eat?”
  • “the Sierra de la Culebra is on fire and the government knows nothing”
  • “the Sierra de la Culebra burned and outraged”. 

Another resident remembers the fire of 1991 that also destroyed much of the forest. “There is a need to clean up, there are formulas and ways to do that and prevent this from happening again. The firebreaks must be kept clean all year round so that they are effective in fighting the fire.” No fewer than 23 municipalities were affected by the disaster. Furthermore, thousands of projects by residents are now buried in the ashes. 

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From ’empty Spain to burnt Spain’ 

Consequently, the area has changed from ’empty Spain’ to ‘burnt Spain’ in the space of 72 hours. An enormous surface completely stripped of “hope, of thousands of projects, of memories and ways of living that are now under the ashes”, according to a few words from the manifesto read by a spokesperson for Platform “La Culebra is silent”. 

Largest forest fire of the past 10 years in Spain 

The forest fire in the Sierra de la Culebra is now considered the largest fire in Castilla y León and one of the largest in Spain in the past 10 years. The fire destroyed 43% of the transboundary natural enclave between Wednesday afternoon, June 15, and Sunday, June 19. But, according to angry residents, the fire could have been extinguished that same Wednesday afternoon, had it not been for the lack of people and resources. Firefighters in the region are also demanding the dismissal of people in key positions in managing forest fire. 

Motion for extension of the forest firefighting service rejected 

Meanwhile, in the parliament of Castilla y León, the parties PP and Vox rejected a motion of the PSOE. In it, the party requested an extension of its firefighting and emergency operations service. More firefighters and more people who can perform prevention tasks throughout the year. The aim was to have a permanent, coordinated and well-staffed firefighting service for the whole of Castilla y León. In addition, all regional parties in parliament – except PP and Vox – are in favour of a commission of inquiry that will investigate the causes and management of the fire in Zamora. 

35 Million to victims 

The regional government announced that it would release €35 million for the victims of the fire. During his visit to the devastated area, Prime Minister Sánchez promised to make an investment of €2 million for economic recovery and rehabilitation work in the burned area. Furthermore, preference will be given to local companies. 

“We have lost part of our history” 

The damage is unprecedented in an area that has already been ravaged by depopulation and extensive aging. “We have lost part of our history,” said the mayor of Riofrío de Aliste in El Confidencial. “What happened, has happened, now comes the worst, reconstruction”. 

Many residents got their income from chestnuts, mushrooms, bees, and honey. That’s all burned. Farmers with cattle that can no longer graze anywhere, for the time being, the hunting sector that can forget next season. The area has also attracted more tourists in recent years. These were people who came to nature for hiking, camping or to spot wolves. 

Also read: Spain in the grip of devastating forest fires

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