Forest fires hit five-year record in Spain

A firefighting plane drops fire retardent over a forest fire in El Pardal. Spain, 31 July. [Marcial Guillen/EPA]

Fires in Spain have burnt 75,026 hectares of forest land in the current year, topping European charts for loss of land to fires. EURACTIV’s partner EFEAgro reports.

Spain has marked a five-year high negative record with 75,026 hectares of forest land lost to fires in 2017 thus far, according to data by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Food (Mapama).

The data came from the Spanish centre for forest fires, which has collected data provided by municipalities from 1 January until 13 August.

So far this year, there have been 9.632 fire incidents, including 5.816 arson attempts and 3.816 fires.

There were 15 large fires (affecting areas of 500 hectares or more), compared to ten in 2016, thirteen in 2015, and six in 2014. The fires in 2017 have destroyed 75,026 hectares, or 0,28% of total Spanish land (compared to 0,6% in 2012 and 0,37% in 2009).

The northeast (Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and Basque Countries) were the most affected areas.

A European problem

This summer, fires have raged in Portugal, southern France, Greece, and now southern Italy, prompting calls for a European civil protection force.

France's Hulot calls for ‘European civil protection force’ to counter forest fires

Europe needs a “civil security force” to tackle wildfires, French Environment Minister Nicolas Hulot said during a visit to the Corsican town of Palneca on Thursday (17 August), after 170 hectares of the island went up in smoke earlier this month. EURACTIV’s partner Ouest-France reports.

Spain tops the ranking for loss of forest land to fires across EU member states, followed by Portugal, Italy, France and Greece.

It is also second by the number of fires (11,928 in 2015), according to data from the European Fire database, preceded only by Portugal (15,851 in the same year).

In the past five years, the number of fires has been rising by 1.77% in Spain, a staggering 15% in France, 11,4% in Italy, and declining by 28% in Portugal and by 51.5% in Greece.

Wildfires trap 2,000 villagers in Portugal

Forest fires cut off a village of 2,000 people in Portugal, as firefighters struggled on Thursday (17 August) to control two major blazes in the centre of the country, local officials said.

According to a 2015 report by the European Commission, the vast majority of fires are caused by carelessness (68% in 2014) and arson (10%); Natural causes account for 3% of fires, and in 19% of cases, the causes remain unknown.