Sierra Bermeja declared a disaster area after forest fire

by Lorraine Williamson
disaster area

PROVINCIA DE MáLAGA – The Spanish Council of Ministers on Tuesday declared Sierra Bermeja in the province of Málaga a disaster area. The forest fire that broke out there on Wednesday 7 September has destroyed almost 10,000 hectares, mostly forest. 

The ‘disaster area’ stamp is given to areas seriously affected by an emergency. This was demonstrated by the recent Sierra Bermeja forest fire. The area is located behind the coast of Estepona on the west of the Costa del Sol. The disaster zone declaration gives those affected the opportunity to claim financial aid to alleviate both personal and material damage. 

In addition to the fires in Andalucia, the resolution adopted by the Council of Ministers concerns the recent fires in the following areas;

  • Graus (Huesca)
  • La Orotava (Santa Cruz de Tenerife)
  • Boca de Huérgamo and Serrilla (León)
  • Merindad de Río Ubierna (Burgos)
  • Ayoó the Vidriales (Zamora)
  • Cueva de Ágreda (Soria)
  • Buñol (Valencia)
  • Orihuela (Alicante)
  • Cáceres and Ribas de Sil (Lugo) 

Disaster areas after floods 

With regard to flooding, the affected populations included in this agreement are those of Benicàssim and Vinaròs (Castellón), Alcanar (Tarragona), Toledo, Mallorca and Menorca. 

Damage is vast

In the case of Sierra Bermeja, the president of the Junta de Andalucía, Juanma Moreno, requested this claim last Friday during his visit to the affected area. According to initial reports, the fire destroyed nearly 10,000 hectares. It also damaged a total of 54 agricultural and livestock farms (160 hectares, 90% of which are chestnut trees, a vital crop in the Valle del Genal); and 110 kilometres of riverbed. 

In all cases, these are large-scale emergencies that have resulted in personal damage, damage to infrastructure and public goods. Also damage to crops and farms, industrial sites and other production facilities. However, this is damage that has not yet been identified and quantified. Because the recovery phase, which started immediately after the intervention, has not yet ended. 

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Despite the lack of a definitive estimate of the damage caused by these disasters, the government believes that the intervention of the state is justified by the magnitude of the consequences of the disasters. Measures are needed to restore the living conditions of the population and achieve the full restoration of essential public services. 

Cause of fire Sierra Bermeja 

The investigation into the causes of the latest fire is being carried out by the Forest Fires Investigation Brigade (BIFF) together with the members of Seprona (environmental division of the Guardia Civil). Although strong indications that the fire was started, all hypotheses are still open for the time being. 

However, one thing is certain: a natural cause for the fire can be ruled out. The fire was caused by humans. Whether that was reckless, accidental or intentional is now under investigation. 

Speculation in recent weeks has pointed to drug trafficking that is behind the fire. There have been instances in the past where wildfires have been set to distract the attention of the police and other security forces. Others pointed to a possible neighbourhood conflict over issues such as farm boundaries. 

It has also been determined that the fire started in two simultaneous outbreaks in Genalguacil. The locations were 4 kilometres apart along the same road. Therefore, they may have involved one or more people. 

“Knowledge of rural life”

Regarding the profile of the person or persons who started the fire, the President of the Junta, Juanma Moreno, stated that it must have been someone “with training”. But according to the Deputy Provincial Coordinator of the Environmental Agents in Malaga, it is sufficient to have knowledge of rural life. “People who live inland have been dealing with fire all their lives. Even though they may not be able to read and write, they do have a field culture from which there is much to learn,” said the environmental agent in La Opinión de Málaga. 

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