Mega fires predicted for Spain

Wildfire/Shutterstock Images

“We are moving from the era of big forest fires to mega forest fires in Spain,” says Pablo Martin Pinto, wildfire expert from Valladolid University, warning that vast blazes like the Sierra de la Culebra wildfire last year, were “here to stay”.

Sierra de la Culebra, in Castilla y Leon, located in the northwestern region of the Iberian peninsula, was ravaged by fires last June and July, with more than 65,000 hectares burnt—a fifth of the total area affected by fires in Spain last year.

The fire also took four lives.

One man from the nearby town of Tabara tried to clear a fire break, managed to escape the blaze but suffered extensive burns, which claimed his life three months later.

The fire damage has meant the town will lose its annual income of 80,000 euros from selling firewood, says mayor Antonio Juarez.

In 2022 Spain suffered nearly 500 wildfires that devastated massive swathes of land, with experts warning that such California-style fires are likely to increase.

Spring has only just begun in Spain, and some 700 firefighters have already been battling the country’s first major forest fire which has so far burnt through some 4,000 hectares of land, forcing 1,500 people to flee.

Firefighters said such a wildfire was more typical of summer than spring.

If Spain experiences “another summer in which temperatures don’t fall below 35C for 20 days and it doesn’t rain for four months, the vegetation will be liable to go up in flames” with the first lightning bolt, Pinto warned.

According to the UN, more than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood worldwide, with the 2015 Paris Agreement establishing a framework to halt and reverse deforestation which is advancing at a rate of 10 million hectares per year.

Experts say conserving Spain’s forests is key to addressing the risk of wildfires.

“We are going to see more and more fires, and bigger ones,” said Forest Ranger Jorge de Dios who represents a regional environmental workers union, saying most local firefighters “are not professionals and don’t have enough training”, echoing concerns also raised by regional firefighters.

Wildfires must be at the top of the political agenda and shouldn’t be tackled only when there is heat and fire, but by early preventative action with appropriate environmental management tailored to this new reality,” said Monica Parrilla of Greenpeace Spain.

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    • Naimah Yianni

      27 March 2023 • 15:12

      “another summer in which temperatures don’t fall below 35C for 20 days and it doesn’t rain for four months, ” – surely that´s a normal summer in Spain? Since when has it ever rained in the summer?

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