Firefighters hope to contain Port de la Selva fire to under thousand hectares

The government has asked the ministry to request the help of French firefighters

4 min
The firemen continue working in the tasks of extinction of the fire of Llançà

LaunchedNew day of fighting against the fire that broke out yesterday between Llançà and Port de la Selva. After a very complicated night with a fire that has not given truce, firefighters continue working to extinguish the flames that have already burned between 400 and 500 hectares, as indicated by the head of the emergency region of Girona, Jordi Martin. With the light of day, planes and helicopters have returned to the scene. They are key to extinguishing the flames, as the whole area is difficult to access by land. Martin stressed that the goal of the day is not to reach the thousand hectares burned, although they will not have the best conditions: "Today there will be wind, high temperatures and low humidity".

At the moment, the fire is still active. As detailed by the head of firefighters detail, Santi Lleonart, much of the perimeter is "in the process of stabilisation". "The perimeter is very unstable and the weather forecast for the afternoon on the right flank or the front, can revive it and can greatly complicate extinction," he stressed.

The flames are burning on different fronts. On the one hand, the back of the fire is in the area of Llançà, the right flank in the Sierra de Rodes, in the area of the monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes, in direct line with the prevailing wind and, therefore, is a very critical place, according to the head of the region of emergencies. The left flank is advancing parallel to the road that connects Port de la Selva and Llançà - "where there has been more affectation to the urban area and where we will do this more intense work in the morning", according to Martin-; and the front is going down the valley of Santa Creu.

Firefighters are using all kinds of techniques to put it out: from throwing water lines, to technical fires to stop the advance. In total there are about ninety ground crews and about fifteen aerial crews working on the ground.

Aspect of the wildfire between Llançà and Port de la Selva

Between yesterday afternoon and tonight, some 350 people have been evacuated, as a precaution, from the different housing estates near the flames; and the confinement of the housing estates of Fener de Dalt, la Selva de Mar, Mas d'Estela and Mas Fumats has also been requested. So far, there are five people with minor injuries: four firefighters and a volunteer from the forest defence groups.

The fire started yesterday at 1.30 pm on the road between Port de la Selva and Llançà. According to Rural Agents, the main hypothesis is that the fire was caused by a cigarette butt thrown near the road, next to Fener housing estate. The forensic police took the cigarette butt to analyse it for the DNA and will try to identify the person who threw it. Precisely, this was also the origin of the 2012 fire in the Alt Empordà, which affected about 10,000 hectares across 18 municipalities, caused two deaths and burned for six days.

The The Catalan minister of home affairs, Joan Ignasi Elena, has lamented that, in the last ten years, more than 12,000 hectares have burnt due to cigarette butts. That is why he has called for prudence and responsibility: "That we have to see all this [the fire] for this imprudence is outrageous," he reproached.

Catalan police diverted traffic around the areas close to the fire
Fire seen from firefighters' control post

Waiting for French help

The general director of fire prevention and extinction, Joan Delort, has indicated that they have asked the Ministry of Defence to incorporate more large-capacity Canadair seaplanes - which are popularly known as "seals" - and have asked the Spanish government to ask France to incorporate aerial means to help in the tasks of extinction. "We need to wet the whole area. The ministry has the key and we hope that the answer will be affirmative," admitted Delort.

In this sense, Elena did not want to answer if they had already received an answer from the executive of Pedro Sánchez: "We will talk about all this when the fire has been put out."

The three roads linking Port de la Selva with Llançà, Perafita and Sant Pere de Rodes have been cut off and only workers and residents who have a justified cause are allowed on the road, but those who have second homes will not be allowed access. "We have to guarantee the safety of people but we also have to be able to facilitate operations that are being carried out," said the director general, who also added that they will be working "today and tomorrow".

Planes and helicopters putting out the the fire in Llançà, on July 17, 2021.

Investigating the origin of the fire

The chief inspector of the Rural Agents, Toni Mur, has indicated that the main hypothesis is that the fire was caused by the fire

According to the emergency services, the night has been very complicated. At the last hour the wind changed, with west component, and opened the right flank towards the mountains, towards the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes. The perimeter was very unstable and the fire generated several secondary fire points. One of these, in the early morning, opened the left flank after jumping about 1000 meters outside the perimeter. That is why new evacuations had to be made of the housing developments of Valle de Santa Creu, Beleser and Santa Isabel and the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes, as well as the first line of houses in the housing developments Mora Dos, Perebeua and Barlovent. Also 120 people were evicted from the Port de la Vall campsite.

The fire in Llançà seen from Port de la Selva

During the night the wind was less intense than yesterday afternoon in the zone of the fire. Even so, towards dawn it has strengthened again. Throughout the day it will continue blowing moderately with gusts that can exceed 50 km/h. This will cause relative humidity to drop again below 40%, while the temperature during the central hours of the day will reach 29ºC or 30ºC. The wind will continue throughout tomorrow and until Monday at noon, Oriol Rodriguez reports.