PROVINCE OF CACERES – A significant blaze has taken hold in the region of Cáceres, marking the first serious forest fire of the season in the area. Despite dedicated attempts by firefighting teams, the situation remains grave as the flames are still unfettered, spreading towards the Sierra de Gata.
As a precautionary measure against the encroaching fire, the village of Ovejuela is under preventive lockdown, and a camp in Hernán Pérez has been hastily evacuated. Presently, the fire is raging unchecked in the Valley of Árrago, inching towards nearby settlements already on pre-alert for possible civil protection interventions. The fire has thus far resulted in the evacuation of people from 5 towns and the destruction of 7,500 hectares.
#IIFF Incendio forestal en Las Hurdes (Cáceres)
✅700 evacuados, sin daños personales
✅2.500 hectáreas quemadas
Operativo a pleno rendimiento por condiciones meteorológicas desfavorables pic.twitter.com/47s4g5Tyj6
— Ministerio del Interior (@interiorgob) May 19, 2023
The Looming Environmental Crisis
The Valley of Árrago, with its dense coverage of predominantly pine trees and a habitat for the endangered black vulture, is at serious risk. If the fire breaches this significant zone, it would not only severely complicate fire management but potentially precipitate an immense environmental catastrophe.
Challenges in Extinguishing the Flames
Strong winds and poor visibility due to nightfall complicated the firefighting operations. The flames continued to devour the northern province of Cáceres. Despite these conditions, approximately twenty ground units employing about 200 personnel have been tirelessly working to impede further spread of the fire.
A Deliberate Act of Destruction
The blaze has been categorised as hazard level 2. Furthermore, it is believed to be a clear act of arson, as stated by the regional Minister of Agriculture. The authorities asked the Military Emergency Response Unit (UME) for help. They await the the arrival of 120 personnel, six fire engines, and a tanker.
Heightened Vigilance in Neighbouring Communities
As the situation develops, surrounding settlements such as Robledo, La Muela, and Sauceda are under close scrutiny. Depending on the fire’s trajectory, lockdown or evacuation procedures might be imperative.
Struggle Against the Flames Continues
Despite the additional resources deployed, including air support, the situation is critically precarious. The President of the Junta, Guillermo Fernández Vara, reiterated that the fire is seemingly a deliberate act. Furthermore, he expressed his faith in the Plan against Forest Fires (Infoex), a team of highly experienced individuals.
The fire was first spotted around 10 p.m. on Wednesday near the hamlet of La Muela. The Director-General of Forest Policy of the Junta of Extremadura confirmed this. Firefighters identified a second ignition point in Sauceda shortly after, further cementing the theory of intentional arson.
A Call to Remain Vigilant
The fire continues its destructive path and emergency services fight to gain control. In the meantime, the authorities sent clear message to citizens. ‘Remain vigilant, heed the instructions of authorities, and promptly report any suspicious activities indicative of deliberate arso’n.
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Sierra de Gata
The Sierra de Gata is renowned for its stunning natural landscapes, boasting a wealth of biodiversity. Its elevation varies, reaching up to 1,492 metres at its highest point, Peña Canchera. It hosts chestnut trees, oaks, and pines, as well as a range of other plants and herbs. This creates a dense vegetation cover, a significant factor in the region’s susceptibility to forest fires.