Forest fires are a natural phenomenon, and one that is causing serious problems across Spain as the temperatures continue to rise. The reasons for a forest fire are varied, but they are more likely to rage when temperatures are high, meaning that the environment is dry and stripped of natural moisture. That means that as temperatures across Spain have soared from between 36 degrees and over 40 degrees, forest fires have burned in the regions of Valencia, Catalonia, Galicia, Castilla-La Mancha and La Rioja.
There are many types of forest fires, but what they all have in common is that they are largely caused by humans, according to the Ministry of Agriculture. With 95% of forest fires being man made problems, a quarter are the result of either accidents or negligence, whilst an incredible fifty perfect are caused by intentional vandalism. So, if you’re wondering how forest fires start, the answer is almost always because of the actions of humans. Because of this, punishments for those who start forest fires in Spain are severe: depending on the type of fire you start, you could be imprisoned for between one and twenty years. You will also be expected to pay hefty fines.
Is Forest Fire a Big Problem in Spain?
Forest fire is a huge problem in Spain, with an incredible number of forest fires across the country every year: there are an average of 15,647 fires in Spain in any given twelve-month period, of a variety of sizes. Some types of forest fire are small, covering less than a hectare, whilst some are much bigger, but they all have the potential to cause significant damage. Forest fire trackers show that, whilst forest fire can happen all over Spain, the region's most badly impacted by the phenomenon are Asturias, Galicia and Castilla y León. The good news is, because forest fires are a man-made problem, it is possible to prevent forest fires by playing our part and conforming to the following simple tips:
- Take your rubbish with you when you spend time in forested areas, and help to keep Spanish forests clean. One of the main reasons for a forest fire is flammable materials left lying around as temperatures begin to rise. Even the smallest scrap of rubbish, such as a cigarette butt, could lead to disaster. According to Antonio Tortosa, vice president of Tecnifuego-Aespi (the Spanish Association of Protection Against Fires) keeping Spanish forests clean is one of the best things you can do to prevent many types of forest fire in the country.
- If you own Spanish property in the countryside, particularly in the regions of Asturias, Galicia and Castilla y León, then it is important to keep your property clean and free from potentially flammable debris. This includes dead leaves, long grass and any brush. Forest fire fighting techniques often involve evacuating properties in the route of the fire, so you should also have an evacuation route and plan in place.
How You Can Help Prevent a Forest Fire in Spain
It might sound obvious, but one of the main reasons for a forest fire is...fire. For this reason, it is illegal to light a fire in the forests, mountains or any other rural area of Spain during the summer months of between May and October. This is intended to have a significant impact on the prevention of forest fires. You should also avoid anything that could cause or set a spark: this means that in rural areas the use of welding equipment and other heavy machinery should be avoided when the temperatures are high.
Alerting Forest Fire Trackers if You See a Forest Fire
If you see a forest fire then it’s important that you take fast action; you should alert the emergency services and forest fire trackers by calling 112. From here, the emergency services will give you clear instructions about what you next steps should be. Once you have contacted the emergency services you should try to get away from the forest fire by heading downhill and upwind of it; as the heat of the fire rises, it will spread faster, so moving in the opposite direction of the wind will help to ensure that the fire can’t be blown towards you faster than you are able to evacuate from it. When looking for a location to escape to, look for somewhere that is free from combustible materials: rocky areas, or large bodies of water are the best options, if these are available. Forest fire fighting techniques will also take the wind direction into account, and work to drive the fire away from you.
If your property in Spain is near the site of a forest fire then the rules and regulations about what you should do will vary from municipality to municipality. Some may advise that you leave your property whilst others will recommend that you seek refuge in it. If you do make the decision to stay in your home then you should only do so if it is not made of wood; you should also water your garden if possible, place wet towels around your doors and windows, and close all of your blinds. Stay in the lowest part of your home and stay calm, waiting for the fire fighters to arrive.
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