One month after the Pont de Vilomara fire: "My whole life has gone up in flames"
Neighbours affected by the fire request help to start again
The Pont de Vilomara"I have lost everything: I had old photos and mementoes of my parents and family, clothes, two very large aquariums, also a miniature train line I was assembling with 40 engines... My whole life has gone up in flames". This is the hard and overwhelming summary made bu Jordi, a 66-year-old resident of the River Park housing estate in Pont de Vilomara, who only a month ago saw it all disappear due to the Pont de Vilomara fire that burnt down over 1,700 hectares of land and around sixty houses, including his own.
Jordi lived in a prefabricated wooden building he could not insure because all companies demanded a very high premium. Once burnt, he contacted the City Council, and now a social worker is looking into how they can help him. In the meantime he lives in his garden, in a caravan that he received as a gift. "I was lucky to have friends, neighbours and the social worker, because I was left with nothing, I didn't even have any clothes!" he recalls.
Despite the misfortune he has experienced, Jordi tries to remain optimistic: "These things happen in life, it's not worth thinking too much about it, it's worth trying to find solutions." Even so, he admits that he does not know how he will get by: social housing is not a possibility because he has four dogs and collects a retirement pension of just over €700 euros, since he used to be self-employed. "If I have to pay €200 or €300 for the apartment, what will I have left to get through the month? The best option is to continue in the caravan, which at least I do not pay and that way I have a kitchen, bed and fridge", he explains. He only asks the Town Council to urgently knock down his old house. "Seeing it every day as it is is affecting me psychologically," he acknowledges.
The fact is that, in addition to the material and economic losses, neighbours who have been left without a house feel a great deal of pain and anguish, especially because they do not know how they will survive from now on. This is the situation also experienced by Adelaine and her husband, both retired and residents of River Park housing development. They also lost literally everything and have been living with friends for a month. "It is a very tough situation, we would never have thought that we would find ourselves in this situation, but we are lucky to have children and friends who are helping us", the neighbour says. They at least have insurance that will pay them a year's rent, but now they are waiting to know exactly which losses will be covered and which will not. "It's going to take a long time: first they wrote a report, then they came back a second time, and now we are waiting for the report to see if the structure can be saved or if everything has to be knocked down to the ground. It is a long and complicated process, and it all feels uphill," she laments, visibly affected by the misfortune.
"They have abandoned us"
Both Jordi and Adelaine live in two of the streets in River Park most affected by the flames, Senglar and Isard, where half-burnt houses alternate with where barely the structure remains. The green, leafy woods that surrounded them are now forests of black tree trunks on a carpet of brown earth mixed with ash.
In total, the flames affected 47 properties in River Park, 17 of which were totally burnt down. Some of the houses were second homes, such as the house that José Pacheco and Paqui Estepa had been having built for years. In their case the second floor was burnt but the entire first floor and the garden were saved. However, they do not have insurance to cover the damages because they still did not have the certificate of occupancy for the property. "We are waiting for help from the City Council. We have been told that first they would help those who have lost their first home and then we will see what happens with second homes," says the couple.
In fact, the president of the River Park residents' association, Jaume Almirall, demands help and facilities for the most affected citizens: "At least that they don't have to pay for building permits to rebuild their home, nor pay property tax on a burnt house", he stresses. Almirall also regrets the dirt accumulated in the streets and considers that administrations do not do enough for affected citizens: "They have abandoned us", he regrets.
Forest rangers concluded that the fire in Bages was intentional and sought to cause great harm. Now work continues to find the perpetrator or perpetrators. Local mayor Enric Campàs explains that the town is "gradually recovering some normality", although the fire was a "very strong shock" and it will take a long time to rebuild: "Half the municipality burnt down," he recalls.
Campàs explains that they are now collecting information on all the needs the most affected citizens have and processing them through social services. "First we are attending to families who have lost their first home and had no insurance. And from here we will be create priorities," he stresses. In addition, they are helping with procedures for residents wishing to ask the State for aid to repair damage to buildings and continue to demand the Spanish government declares the area as hit by catastrophe, allowing special measures.
The mayor of Sant Fruitós de Bages, Àdria Mazcuñan, adds that the Spanish government, the Provincial Council and the Generalitat are helping them, but she asks for more technical and economic support. "Although we have a contingency item, it is unaffordable for any town council to cover all these expenses," she admits. Despite the fact that the fire caused less damage in this municipality, there are also properties in Les Brucardes housing estate which were swallowed by the flames. But in spite of the terror and the pain the fire has left, Mazcuñan finds a positive note: "Everyone's solidarity: neighbours, technicians, firefighters... has been amazing. Everyone got involved very quickly to lend a hand, doing whatever they could, and they haven't stopped until now. I take my hat off to them," she said