FOCUS: How Spain is on track for the most devastating summer of fires on record

BLACKENED earth, smoking trees, charred corpses of wild animals cooked on the barbecue. The pungent flavor of smoky pine and eucalyptus wafts through the air.

Such apocalyptic scenes have been repeated over and over across Spain, from Mijas on the Costa del Sol to the wild forests of Zamora in the northwest of the peninsula, to the hills just outside Madrid.

Dozens of wildfires have devoured tens of thousands of acres and forced thousands of residents to be evacuated from their homes in what promises to make summer 2022 the worst wave of fires since the start of the recordings.

An estimated 200,000 hectares of Spain’s countryside have already been ravaged according to the latest figures released by the European Forest Fire System, surpassing the carnage of 2012 when some 189,000 hectares were destroyed in what was so far the worst summer on record.

Even as temperatures drop as the latest heat wave subsides, much of Spain remains on high alert for wildfires, with its countryside turning into a dangerous powder keg.

Firefighters on the Canary island of Tenerife are currently battling a blaze with a perimeter of 27km, the flames are encroaching on the protected biosphere of Donaña, while in Valencia smokestacks are visible from the Costa Blanca as the woods are burning in Calles.

Two wildfires have scorched the hills above the Costa del Sol in the Mijas region in the past month, with another new blaze reported on Tuesday.

The tragedy was greatest in Losacio in Zamora where two people died in a fire that destroyed more than 13,000 hectares of land in just two days.

Fires scorch Spain and France during European heatwave
Credit Image: © Eric Renown/ZUMA Press Wire)

Firefighter Daniel Gullon Vara, 62, died tackling the flames, while Victoriano Anton Raton, a 69-year-old farmer, was caught in the blaze as he tried to get his herds to safety after he suddenly changed direction.

While blame has been placed on abnormally high temperatures, forests neglected by years of mismanagement, and the usual array of arsonists, careless workers and idiots responsible for the fires, few deny the role of global warming.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has insisted on the consequences of the climate emergency as he examines the aftermath of a fire in Extremadura last week.

“I want something to be very clear,” he said. “Climate change kills: it kills people, as we have seen; it also kills our ecosystem, our biodiversity, and it also destroys the things that we hold dear as a society – our homes, our businesses, our livestock.

Ironically, even those dedicated to tackling climate change played their part in the latest devastation after it emerged that a Dutch company charged with planting trees to offset carbon emissions had been responsible for triggering the devastation. a forest fire.

Land Life, a reforestation company with plantations in Aragon, has admitted one of its workers was responsible for starting a fire that destroyed 14,000 hectares outside Ateca when a spark struck escaped from a mechanical shovel preparing the ground for sowing.

Heat wave fires in Spain
Ateca in Aragon where 14,000 hectares were burned. Photo: Cordon Press

One of the starkest images from this month’s fires was the miraculous escape of a farmer trying to dig a fire trench to protect his local town, Tabara in Castile and Leon, when his tractor was engulfed in flames.

Angel Martin Arjona was filmed fleeing hell with his clothes on fire. He survived with burns over 80% of his body.

Man running from the flames

Surprisingly, authorities estimate that 85% of wildfires are the direct result of human actions, either deliberately started by arsonists or due to human error or negligent action.

In Catalonia on Sunday a man was arrested for starting three fires while in Mallorca on Monday a German resident is in police custody on suspicion of starting seven fires in the Calvia area over the weekend.

Although the veracity of this year’s fires is much stronger than expected, this should come as little surprise.

“For a long time we have warned that climate change means more intense heat waves and more wildfires in the Mediterranean,” said Nuria Blazquez, spokesperson for Ecologistas en Accion. “But maybe they arrived earlier than expected.”

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