In order to avoid Dante-esque situations, as we have seen in Turkey and Greece recently, Spanish authorities have warned citizens to exercise extreme caution. The risk of forest fires will be at its height in the coming days.
With the arrival of the first real nationwide heat wave of the year, Spain is on high alert due to the high risk of forest fires over the next few days. Fires could result from very high temperatures, low humidity and high winds in certain parts of Spain. Citizens are advised to ‘take extreme precautions’. The heatwave will bring the mercury to around 45 Celsius in many places in Spain.
This rise in temperature makes the wildfire risk map predominantly bright red throughout the week. To date, summer weather in the Iberian Peninsula has been relatively favourable. 40,000 hectares of forest has burned down in the first seven months of this year. That is 20% less than the average burned surface in the last ten years.
Conditions like Greece
However, forestry engineers warn of the great danger that will dominate the rest of the month; citing conditions in the Mediterranean region near Greece and Turkey.
This year, 14 major fires covering more than 500 hectares have been registered so far. The last one was in El Tiemblo (Ávila). The largest fire, in terms of area burned, was in Arico (Santa Cruz de Tenerife). This occurred on May 20 and destroyed approximately 3,000 hectares.
According to data from the Ministry of Ecological Transitions, between January 1 and August 1, 2021, a total of 40,213.80 hectares of forest land burned. This compares to 24,923 hectares in the same period of 2020 and 60,498 in 2019.
Little done for prevention of forest fires
However, experts warn we need to be constantly on the lookout. Very little has been done lately on preventive matters, such as forest cleaning tasks – removing dried-out and combustible material.
Increasing amount of empty interior land
The College of Forest Engineers explains factors causing the current risk situation in the Mediterranean are known. These are related to the socio-economic context, the state of the natural environment and climate change.
The current reality in Spain is characterised by the fact that farmers are increasingly abandoning extensive farming activities due to lack of profitability. Asa result, other traditional uses of forest areas, such as firewood gathering and extensive grazing disappear too. This means many more areas are ‘neglected’ than before, increasing the risk of fire.
What can you do yourself?
In order to prevent forest fires such as those occurring in Greece, everyone is urged to comply with the fire prevention regulations of the Autonomous Communities, especially those concerning the incineration of garden waste. In addition, cigarette butts thrown into nature and waste, especially glass bottles, are other common causes of fires. If you are caught doing this, you can be subject to a hefty fine. Camping is only allowed in authorised areas. Barbecuing is strictly prohibited in outdoor areas during these months. Limit motorised transport through dry forest areas as much as possible.