Over 200 hectares burnt in first major fire in "tougher" summer
The fire between Castellví de Rosanes and Martorell forced authorities to evacuate dozens of neighbours and cut the AP-7
MartorellThe first major fire of the summer has already burnt 200 hectares between Castellví de Rosanes and Martorell, in the Baix Llobregat. Precisely the metropolitan area is of special concern for the Department of Home Affairs, which expects a "tougher summer" than in previous years in terms of fires because there has been less rain. "I try to avoid alarmist speeches, but the situation is difficult", the general director of Prevention, Fire Fighting and Rescue, Joan Delort said on Tv3.
Nevertheless, 75% of the fire in Castellví de Rosanes and Martorell has been stabilised, as reported by the Fire Department of the Generalitat early this morning, after up to 67 teams of firefighters worked through the night extinguishing the fire, which has been burning since Tuesday afternoon. The fire continues active but the intensity of the flames has dropped considerably coinciding with the progressive increase in relative humidity, which has reached 60%, although there have been some outbursts on the right flank due to the wind. In the early hours of the morning seven air units joined in, with the aim of intensifying the work before the winds expected for around noon start.
The fire started near the housing estate of Can Sunyer at around 4 pm and spread in different directions, making firefighters' work harder. Evidence so far points to human negligence causing the fire.
"The fire looked like water"
Everything went very fast, so much so that "the fire looked like water". Juan Manuel Gonzalez is one of the hundred odd neighbours evacuated on Tuesday afternoon, when the alarm spread among Can Sunyer housing estate residents in Castellví.
After 10 p.m. most of the 30 families affected in this area were waiting for the authorities to tell them they would finally spend the night in hotels in the area. The family of Pere Badia, however, was mulling over whether to accept the offer or go to his parents' home, calm in the knowledge that no houses have been affected by the fire, as firefighters confirmed. The flames and smoke also affected AP-7 motorway, which was closed to traffic also as a precaution. In addition, 17 users of the Vistalegre nursing home in Martorell had to be evacuated too. One by one, the residents have entered an adapted vehicle which took them to a sports hall the Town Council had enabled in case they had to relocate victims. Finally, they were taken to empty flats belonging to an association for the disabled, where they spent the night.
The easterly and later westerly winds combined with the complex terrain of the Serra de l'Ataix - full of ravines, housing and infrastructures - made the firefighters' work harder. "The fire has been swinging in different directions and has not had a clear axis of propagation," explained the head of the operation, Joan Rovira, after participating in a joint meeting with the Catalan Minister of Home Affairs and the mayors of the affected municipalities.
The investigation is still open but Rovira has pointed out "negligence" as the most likely cause and, in this sense, claimed that it has already located the starting point from which the flames have spread very fast by a very dry and dirty ground. The mayors of Martorell and Castellví have agreed to prosecute whoever is found responsible.
"Towards 5 o'clock in the afternoon we have seen fire and in few minutes already we saw the flames on this side of the mountain", explains a neighbour of the district Rosanes in Martorell that almost had not moved of the door of house his with other neighbours of the street controlling the fire. It was at this point where the flames approached the town centre and many neighbours went to bridges and roads nearby to see the spectacular fire up close. The mayor, Xavier Fonollosa, has regretted the destruction of a valuable place for the city, since it is one of its most important green spaces and has been a place of leisure for many citizens who came up looking for air and distance.
The Catalan Minister of Home Affairs, Joan Ignasi Elena, has appealed to citizens' "prudence" and "self-responsibility" in a summer season with high temperatures to avoid causing fires like today.
The fire has been deployed causing several foci that have spread down one of the mountain's flanks, approaching Martorell. Some of them have jumped to the other side of the AP-7 motorway. In fact, the Mossos have preventively cut three points of the motorway, in Martorell northbound, and in Catellbisbal and Papiol, southbound. A change of wind has forced the firefighters to relocate vehicles and change the route of seaplanes that collaborate in the tasks of extinguishing the fire.
"Close the windows", called a local policeman of Martorell to neighbours who were watching as the flames were approaching homes. The officer, however, quickly reassured them that the fire that they saw so close was a "fire-break" that firefighters were creating to stop the fire's spread. Another neighbour was soaking the brambles between his house and the motorway and the fire. "It's a disaster, It's very scary, but it had been coming because everything is very dry, "says Luis Quinteros, at the door of his house, on surveillance duties. "Surely it has been a human mistake, a fag butt chucked without thinking," he laments
Fire in Costa Brava
The fire in Martorell and Castellví de Rosanes has started shortly after the firefighters had brought another fire under control in the Costa Brava. The fire started this morning due to a van that caught fire on road Gi-682. The flames reached a forest area and ended up burning part of a house and 6 hectares of forest area. About thirty neighbours have had to stay at home due to the discomfort of smoke, but has not had to evictacuate anyone. However, firefighters have warned of the danger posed by the fact that there was no protection strip between the houses and the forest.
The high temperatures of recent days and the wind have put the Generalitat's emergency services on alert since the start of the summer season. So far there have been small fires in different points of the territory, This Tuesday's in Martorell was the first to affect over 100 hectares.