Fire gives no respite: 1,700 hectares burn in Terra Alta, Solsonès and Noguera
Firefighters prioritise the fire in Castellar de la Ribera: "If it gets complicated we could have a big forest fire"
BarcelonaAlmost 1,700 hectares in Catalonia are on fire, distributed in three fires in Corbera d'Ebre (Terra Alta), Artesa de Segre (Noguera) and Castellar de la Ribera (Solsonès) which on Thursday continued to wreak havoc in the area. The weather is not helping: neither the heat reaching maximum temperatures, nor the dry storms, nor the lightning, which have strengthened the fire overnight. Above all, the firefighters are concerned about the Solsonès fire, because, although it has only burnt about 350 hectares so far, it is the one which could potentially get out of control: "If it gets complicated we could have a big forest fire," said the operational head of the Fire Service, David Borrell. On the other hand, the Terra Alta fire is practically stabilised, although it is still active. The fire in Artesa de Segre will continue burning for hours, since firefighters have chosen to create a barriers around 5,000 hectares and let the fire burn out at its own pace within this area. With three fires still burning and with a weather that favors the appearance of more fires, forest rangers have activated level 2 of Plan Alfa in 27 counties in Catalonia. Certain activities susceptible to cause forest fires will be restricted and, in addition, Presidency minister Laura Vilagrà has warned that the Catalan Government is considering "closing natural parks" this summer due to the risk of fires.
Above all, the Catalan government calls for prudence. "We can't afford to have more fires simultaneously," Home Affairs minister Joan Ignasi Elena warned from the Fire Service HQ in Bellaterra. At the moment, 400 firefighters are working to put out fires accompanied by 19 aerial means and a hundred troops of the Military Emergency Unit. Most of them are concentrated in Solsonès, which is "number one priority". The fire has the potential to burn tens of thousands of hectares and at this point several smaller fires have started around them, mainly caused by lightning storms last night reigniting the forest and the strong dry wind spreading it. Borrell has admitted that at this point there is "no guarantee" the Solsonès fire can be stabilised, but the goal is to achieve this Thursday, as well as stabilise the Ebro area fire.
On the other hand, the Artesa de Segre fire will continue burning during "the next few days", as Elena admitted, since firefighters do not have the capacity to penetrate inside the fire and cannot control the left flank. The decision has been made to create barriers in a perimeter of 5,000 hectares and wait for the fire to peter out in this area. The flames are bigger on the left flank, while the right flank has already been brought under "control". In Corbera d'Ebre 50 hectares will be given up to contain the fire.
About seventy evacuees
At the moment, about seventy people have had to be evacuated due to the fire in Artesa de Segre. About 20 people have moved to homes of family and friends and 54 people who were staying at a holiday camp have been moved to a sports centre. For the rest of the population, level 2 of the Alfa plan involves the restriction on certain activities such as the possibility of lighting fires, agricultural activities or barbecues. In fact, the farmers in Baldomar and other towns in Artesa de Segre have stopped their combine harvesters in the midst of the cereal harvest and made their tractors available to plough the fields to try to stop the flames advancing.
In Baldomar this Wednesday the temperature reached 40.8 ºC and this Thursday the conditions to fight the fire will not be any better. Temperatures are likely to continue increasing, and although during much of the day the wind will not be very intense, in the middle of the afternoon the wind could pick up with gusts of over 30 or 40 km/h. These conditions are very similar to those expected in Corbera d'Ebre, although in general in Terres de l'Ebre temperatures will drop one or two degrees compared to yesterday's values.