Forest fires in Spain devastate three times as many hectares as last year

by Lorraine Williamson
forest fires hectares
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Forest fires have destroyed 259,491.42 hectares of land since the beginning of this year until 9 October last, three times more than in the same period last year, when 86,304.95 hectares burned, according to data from the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (MITECO).  

Data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) show that as many as 301,192 hectares were burnt up to 15 October, a difference of 41,701 hectares. Spain is the country with the largest area burnt so far this year. It has more than a third of the total area burnt in European Union countries.  

MITECO’s data differs sharply from the average for the past decade. This stands at 81,438 hectares burnt for this period. That’s less than a third of what was burnt this year and 16.72% more than in 2012. Moreover, so far, this is the year with the most fires in the past decade. The least bad year was 2018, when 23,211.96 hectares went up in flames in the same period.  

Fewer fires, more area destroyed 

A total of 9,450 fires were recorded, compared to the average of 9,584 on average over the last decade. This means that more hectares were burnt with by fewer fires. There were 55 major forest fires, covering more than 500 hectares. Last year there were 18, matching the average number over the last decade.

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Of the 9,450 fires, around two-thirds (6,576) were ‘conatos’. These are outbreaks that were extinguished before a hectare had been burnt. Furthermore, there were 2,874 fires, with more than a hectare affected.  113,508 hectares were forest and 127,901 hectares were scrub and open forest, while the remaining 18,081 hectares were burnt pastures and grasslands. A total of 0.93% of the national area was burnt.  

Geographical distribution 

44.09% of the fires were recorded in the northwest, where 45.08% of the affected forest area and almost half (48.26%) of the forest area went up in flames. 37.58% of the fires took place inland. A total of 30.46% of the forest area there was burnt. The Mediterranean region accounted for 14.47% of the affected forest area and 20.11% of the burnt forest area, with 17.88% of the fires. The Canary Islands, with 0.45% of the fires, accounted for 2.42% of the forested area and 1.07% of the burned forest area.  

Spain most affected country within EU 

In 2022, Spain is the European country with the largest burnt area so far this year. According to EFFIS, a total of 301,192 hectares had been burned by 15 October, almost twice as many as in Romania – the second hardest-hit country this year – where 151,003 hectares were burned, and Portugal – the third – with 104,507 hectares. Fire has destroyed 772,597 hectares in the 27 EU member states this year, of which 33.59% in Spain. 

Also read: Twice as many fires as previous year

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