Firefighters deserve our maximum collaboration

2 min
A fire brigade car passes through a burnt area during the fire at Cap de Creus

Twelve years after the tragic fire in Horta de Sant Joan in July 2009, in which five firefighters died and one was seriously injured, an agreement has been announced whereby the two arsonists, who spent barely a couple of fortnights in prison when they were arrested a few months after the events, have only been sentenced to four years in prison. The accused accepted the deal, which also obliges them to pay €9m in compensation to the victims' families, in order to avoid trial. The two culprits, Antonio Paz and Lorenzo Forner, who, previously, had unsuccessfully attempted to join the fire service, worked clearing the forest for the Generalitat, They have acknowledged responsibility for the fire: photos were found on their mobile phones showing them at the scene with trees already on fire and a column of smoke.

It should be remembered that that tragic fire generated a huge social, technical and political controversy about fire's origin and the way the fire service dealt with it. The commanders of the operation were harshly criticised, while those who caused the fire were left in the background. The Court of Tarragona, however, finally cleared those responsible for the operation. And now, with a delay of more than a decade, comes an act of justice that rightly seems benevolent to the relatives of the deceased. The decision, moreover, comes at a time of strong public awareness of this often heroic and in any case dedicated task, which always requires a high technical level. This was seen in the recent fires in the Baix Llobregat (Castellví de Rosanes and Martorell) and Alt Empordà (Cap de Creus). In both cases greater evils have been avoided and it has been possible to limit the perimeter of the fire.

It is important firefighters and also volunteer Forest Defence Groups are held in high esteem. The case of Horta de Sant Joan, painful for what it meant and how it has ended, still shows how much progress has been made in this area. Nowadays, the bodies specialised in fire prevention and extinction have earnt the population's respect on their own merits. Their work is rarely called into question, quite on the contrary. But it would be even better if this respect and admiration in times of danger were also accompanied by permanent care of the forest and landscape by the citizens. Stupid, lethal and tragic actions such as those of the two people convicted in the Horta case are fortunately becoming more and more rare, but on the other hand, recklessness persists, such as the acts which caused this month's fires. So there is still a lot of educating to be done

In times of climate change, we cannot let our guard down at all. The fight against fires must be seen as a social task, a task for everyone. It is not enough to rely only on professionals, who ultimately, when the fire has already been declared, can only minimise the damage. This has an impact on the environment but also on the economy: after all, the landscape is a collective tangible asset. Therefore, maximum respect for the work of firefighters and civic and environmental awareness must form an inseparable binomial if we want to keep our natural environment healthy and safe. Because summer has only just begun.