Numerous active wildfires in Spain in what is already almost a sad record year

by Lorraine Williamson
wildfires in Spain #IFCebreros

PROVINCIA DE ZAMORA – The active wildfires in Spain have already burned more than 60,000 hectares, equivalent to 5% of the surface of the province, and ended two lives in the province of Zamora. Nearly 30,000 hectares have been destroyed here and the fire is still active. 

However, the fire is under control. To indicate the magnitude of the disaster that has hit Zamora again after the fire in June; the province now concentrates 60% of the forest area burned in all of Spain so far this year. Add to this nearly 30,000 hectares were destroyed in the #IFlosacio fire in the Sierra de Culebra in June. 

Three days of mourning 

On Wednesday morning, all evacuated residents were able to return to their homes. At least 32 villages had been evacuated. Several municipalities in the province announced three days of official mourning for the death of firefighter Daniel Gullón Vara. A shepherd has also been killed while trying to evacuate his sheep. Click here for a tweet with a map of the affected area. 

Wildfires elsewhere in Spain

In Cebreros, Ávila, the level 2 fire is progressing unfavourably due to the wind. In Galicia, the fires have set fire to more than 20,000 hectares. The most worrying are those of Carballeda in Ourense and Folgoso-A Pobra do Brollón in Lugo. In Zaragoza, a fire rages in Ateca. Furthermore, it has already destroyed 5,600 hectares, interrupting the regular traffic of three trains with Madrid. This fire also led to the evacuation of the towns of Moros and Villalengua. 

Forest fire in Guadalajara 

A fire has also broken out at Valdepeñas de la Sierra in Guadalajara. 15 air resources, 50 ground units and 250 firefighters were deployed here. Residents of 5 places have been evacuated. The forest firefighting service is most concerned about the fire in the north in the Ayllón mountain range. This is because of the inaccessibility of the terrain to ground crews. So far, 3,000 hectares have already been burned here. 

Forest Fires in Galicia 

The sixteen main fires in Galicia have already burned 22,060 hectares. That is 7,500 in Carballeda de Valdeorras (Ourense) and 8,600 around Folgoso (Lugo). The two fires still active in the Lugo municipalities of Folgoso do Courel and A Pobra do Brollón have already destroyed 8,600 hectares of land, according to the latest estimates from the Xunta. The regional government has declared alert level two due to the proximity of the fire to the centres of Parada dos Montes and Carballal (Folgoso), Busto (A Pobra do Brollón) and Gamiz (Samos). 

UME deployed in 7 fires 

The national military emergency service UME is involved in 7 forest fires in Spain on Wednesday. 956 soldiers and 337 assets were deployed in the fires in IFMontesdeValdueza, IFValdepeñasdelaSierra, IFCebreros, IFRiodolasCarballedaDeValdeorras, IFSecedaFolgoso, IFAteca and IFLosacio. 

See also: Forest fires in Las Hurdes and Monfragüe under control 

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Almost a record year for burned hectares in July 

The wildfires have destroyed 182,497 hectares of forest in Spain so far this year. 60% of these are in the province of Zamora. This means that in just over 6.5 months, only 7,000 hectares less burned than in all of 2012, the year in which the record of 189,376 destroyed hectares was reached. This is apparent from data from the European organization EFFIS based on satellite images. 

According to data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), which uses Copernicus satellite imagery for its calculations, the area burned so far will exceed that of all of 2017 – the second worst year in the series – by 130,920 hectares. Although temperatures in Spain have dropped, strong winds still make the work of the fire service difficult in many cases. 

Firefighters and the population protest the policy of Castilla y León government 

Castilla y León firefighters want the state to take control of the blaze due to the regional government’s inability to extinguish the blaze. The unions are begging for the declaration of INFOCAL risk level 3 so that the state units come to strengthen firefighting in Zamora and Salamanca. The region’s apparatus is not enough to deal with the fire properly and is much needed. 

“Insufficient capacity and organisation” 

“We are completely overwhelmed, we cannot deal with this severity of fires, there is no capacity, but there is also no organization,” said Manuel, spokesman for the Association of Forest Firefighters of Castilla y León (ATIFCYL). There are currently about 4,000 troops working on extinguishing and about 90% of them are private companies. “For them, declaring risk 3 is a political issue, it means recognizing their incompetence and their inability to cope.” 

According to the union, the problem is not related to the people who are working, but to the lack of reception. “We work 70 hours in four days, we are exhausted and there is not enough help and budget,” said the ATIFCYL spokesperson. 

Only a soggy sandwich and too little water 

The unions denounce not only the lack of peace but also the appalling working conditions. One of the most important facts is the food that firefighters get from the region: a soggy bun with three slices of sausage and not enough water to rehydrate. 

Timed extinguishing protocol 

INFOCAL, the extinguishing protocol of the government of Castilla y León has been in existence for more than 20 years and has not renewed its regulations since 1999. It is not adapted to the climate crisis and the characteristics of the fires, which are becoming increasingly virulent and difficult to extinguish. 

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