In the past few days, Spain has been shaken by large-scale forest fires from north to south. It is estimated that between January and August 15 more than 270,000 hectares of vegetation burned down. Portugal is experiencing an equally oppressive summer and fears a particularly dry month of September.
Spain and Portugal were still trying to fight several wildfires on Wednesday, particularly in central Portugal, where the fire mobilized significant resources in the Serra da Estrela Natural Park. However, the latter was considered “under control” by local authorities on Wednesday evening.
In Spain, more than 10,000 hectares went up in smoke near Valencia
Spain in particular has faced a wave of forest fires in recent weeks, particularly in the province of Valencia in the east. The increase in temperature favors the phenomenon in the first place.
The fire, which has been raging since Monday in Bejis, 70 kilometers north-west of Valencia, has grown rapidly, devastating more than 10,000 hectares and causing the evacuation of 1,500 people, according to regional officials. Some 200 kilometers further south, in the Vall de Ebo, the weather has brought some calm to the hundreds of firefighters who have been battling a major blaze since Saturday.
A scourge of the forest that is also a scourge of the native wildlife as demonstrated in the video below which shows wild boar attempting to escape.
However, rain and hail falling on an area where the flames ravaged more than 11,000 hectares grounded the firefighters and their teams. At the height of the disaster, around twenty planes were providing airborne support to emergency services, according to the local press, which noted the evacuation of six communities and 1,500 people.
The video, which was shot by the firefighters on site, shows an overwhelming spectacle.
Terrible year on the fire front in Spain
The Valencia fire is undoubtedly the most dazzling and appalling of the fires currently ravaging Spain, but it is not an isolated one. According to a point in the Onda Cero media, there were a dozen other fires in the country in recent days, namely six in Galicia (three of them were still active on Wednesday), five in Asturias or even that of ‘Anon de Moncayo in the Near Zaragoza. This latest catastrophe even swallowed up 6,000 hectares.View of the Zaragoza disaster, August 15. © ANDER GILLENEA
The statistics presented by RTVE, based on data from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS), are staggering: these fires devastated more than 270,000 hectares of vegetation in Spain between last January and August 15.
However, it should be noted that this total is 100,000 hectares lower, according to the Spanish government, which stopped its census a week before its European partner.
In Portugal, the doldrums after the fire
A relative calm has returned to Portugal this Thursday morning after the last chaotic days. After being declared under control last week, the Serra da Estrela fire flared up again on Monday. An investigation was launched to determine the causes. However, that house is now considered “under control,” the commander of the local civil defense said at a press conference Wednesday night.
“The fire is under control, but it has not been extinguished. There is a whole consolidation work that will continue in the coming days,” explained the commander of the civil defense, Miguel Oliveira, on TSF radio on Wednesday evening.
This fire, which, according to preliminary estimates, burned around 25,000 hectares of this protected area, has become the most important of the summer in Portugal.
The smell of burning was even smelled in Madrid on Tuesday. He destroyed unique species in the Unesco-recognized park in the heart of the Serra da Estrela mountain range, which culminates at around 2000 meters.
The goal of the 1,200 firefighters and eight planes deployed at the scene was to get this blaze under control by Friday before temperatures rose again.
In addition, another focus Wednesday afternoon mobilized aid near the Caldas da Rainha region in the center of the country. A firefighter fighting the local flames even died there, dying of a heart attack.
The summer of all dangers
“We are not yet at the end of this critical fire period,” Interior Minister José Luis Carneiro warned Wednesday after a meeting with officials from Portugal’s Institute for the Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA).
“We will enter a third heatwave” beginning Saturday “which should last through September” in what is proving to be a “hot and dry month” as normal, he claimed.
Portugal, which is experiencing an exceptional drought this year, has already experienced the hottest month of July in almost a century. Around 92,000 hectares have gone up in smoke since the beginning of the year, the largest area since the deadly 2017 fires that killed around 100 people, according to the latest report from the Institute for Conservation and Forests.
Those tens of thousands of hectares burned in the Iberian Peninsula reflect the conclusions of the study conducted by the Global Forest Watch association, the World Resources Institute and the University of Maryland and published on Wednesday. The survey, read here by the BBC, found that in 2021 alone 9 million hectares of forest had been charred worldwide, double the amount in 2001. Using the image, which is now anchored in a similar case, the report says, that the world is burning the equivalent of 16 football pitches… per minute this year. Worse, we would lose an additional three million hectares of forest to the flames each year. Or the area of a country like Belgium.