Summer fire campaign will be one of the "toughest and longest" ever
More than 600 hectares have already burnt in vegetation fires in half a year, a record since 2012
Barcelona"We should no longer talk about a summer campaign, because the risk of fires, as a result of climate change, is all year round," says Catalan Home Affairs minister Joan Ignasi Elena. Yet on Wednesday Elena presented the Fire Service's plan for this summer, repeating the warning he gave at the beginning of May: "We face one of the toughest and longest campaigns in recent years". This Wednesday, for example, up to 55 firefighters three fires. Elena warned of the persistence of high temperatures and dryness due to lack of rain makes the danger "evident".
Elena said 2,748 vegetation fires have been put out this year. It is the highest since 2019: from January 1 to June 12 last year 2,272 fires were put out; in 2020 there were 1,207; and in 2019 there were 2,343. Vegetation fires include urban, agricultural and forest fires. If only forest fires are taken into account, this year there have already been 285 such fires in Catalonia that have burnt 607 hectares in less than half a year, the highest since 2012. The record is due to the fact that in February a fire razed almost 400 hectares in Roses. Even so, Elena has added that nine out of ten fires burn no more than 10 hectares.
The head of the Fire Department, inspector David Borrell, has warned that in recent years more forest mass has accumulated and the forests are suffering from climate change: "They are under more stress than ever". This, according to Borrell, makes fires "have a faster and more violent behaviour", with "great speed and fire load". Firefighters dealt with them in two ways. The first is with a defensive strategy, which has been applied for a decade, in which the action "is not always to attack the fire because sometimes it is better to wait for it", said Borrell. The second is the improvement in the organisation of the operational command: when fires are of a certain size "an action plan is always established".
Over 5,000 professionals
Elena explained that over 5,000 public servants will work on the fire campaign this summer. Apart from new firefighters and forest rangers, about 500 professionals have been taken on "to face fires with greater guarantees" . About forty aeroplanes and helicopters will also take part. "We are talking about very high temperatures as well as ver dry weather," warned Elena, who drew attention to the fact temperatures will exceed 40 degrees this week.
"There is a lot in play. It will be a hard campaign and we have use all possible means," concluded Elena, who recalled that last year's summer was already tough due to fires. The most important forest fire was the one in Conca de Barberà and L'Anoia, which burnt about 1,700 hectares.