Large fire in Extremadura destroys part of nature reserve

by Lorraine Williamson
Extremadura fire

PROVINCIA DE CáCERES – The fierce forest fire in Extremadura has been raging since Friday and has already destroyed almost 9,000 hectares in the Las Hurdes region and the Sierra de Gata nature reserve, near the border with Portugal. 

On Friday, the emergency teams evacuated some 700 residents of four villages in the zone because of the approaching flames. In the night from Thursday to Friday, it concerned Robledillo de Gata (86 inhabitants), Cadalso (414) and Descargamaría (106). On Friday morning, Ovejuela (77 vecinos) was evacuated. 

Strong wind

The fire is believed to have been lit and started in the municipality of Pinofranqueado (Cáceres). The strong wind made it difficult to control the flames in an area densely wooded with pine trees. 

Also read: Forest fires in Castellon

The fire is already among the most devastating in the region in recent history. This is along with the fire in Valencia de Alcántara in the summer of 2003 that destroyed 12,000 hectares. And, furthermore, that of 15,000 hectares in Las Villuercas in 2005. 

Large part of beekeeping destroyed 

The damage can be seen from afar and in the Las Hurdes area. Furthermore, flames have wreaked havoc on beekeeping, an important industry for many of the municipalities here. “Between 60% and 70% of the people in the burned area live from beekeeping,” says Moisés Hernández in, who owns beehives. “It is very difficult to live in a rural, deprived area, far from the cities, and if what we have on top of that is destroyed by fire…”, says the businessman. “This is a total ruin,” he summarises. 

Last night, the following were set to work to extinguish this fire;

Cogesa Expats
  • eleven units of the forest firefighting service in Extremadura (Infoex)
  • ten fire trucks
  • five technicians
  • six Seprona environmental agents 

All efforts were concentrated in northeastern Ovejuela on Saturday, where the fire was rated at threat level 2. 

Firefighting continued from dawn

The firefighting planes and helicopters were able to take off again from dawn. Furthermore, 17 land units were active, as reported on Saturday morning by the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development, Population and Territory of the Junta de Extremadura. 

The firefighters are receiving help from the national unit Brif, the military emergency unit UME, and units from Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla y León, Madrid and Andalucia. One hundred firefighters from Portugal have also joined. 

According to InfoEx’s initial estimate, the fire has already destroyed more than 8,500 acres. This is an estimate, as there are numerous islands of vegetation within the perimeter that have not burned. 

“Whoever did it knew what he was doing” 

The president of the Junta de Extremadura, Guillermo Fernández Vara, emphasised how difficult it is for firefighters to contain the fire with winds of 60 kilometres per hour. “The pines act like petrol barrels. Whoever did it [the arsonist] knew what he was doing, how to do it and when to do it” by “choosing a time right before nightfall”, making it difficult to respond “quickly”. 

Fire of sixth generation? 

La Vanguardia asked the president if it was a sixth-generation fire that released a large amount of energy and continuous air circulation, which makes it very difficult to extinguish. Vara responded that “it must have been in one of the parts” and added that very experienced firefighters have told him that they had “seen things that they had not seen before in their lives”. 

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