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35% OF LOCAL FOREST FIRES CAUSED BY ARSON

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The damage can take many years to repair

As Spain’s Emergency Services battled to extinguish at least 10 separate forest fires burning across the country another two fire fighters were killed last week while tackling a wildfire in Torremanzanas, a small village inland from Alicante.

According to the Spanish Minister of Agriculture Spain is at exceptionally high risk of fires this summer after suffering its driest winter in 70 years so the news released last week that one in three of all fires is set deliberately is an especially bitter pill to swallow as casualties and deaths are expected to rise even further during the particularly dry months of July and August.

In the Alicante region alone, where the temperature reached 40 degrees Celsius in recent days, eight helicopters and six water dropping planes were called in to assist firefighters on the ground to douse the Torremanzanas blaze.

The Spanish government said that over 132,300 hectares of land had been consumed by flames this year up to 5 August, with a total of 2,000 different fires, the worst devastation in more than a decade.

Human action is by far the most common cause of the fires with the Ministry of Agriculture confirming that 95 percent of all fires start as a direct result of human action, be it accidental, or deliberate.

According to information provided by the dirección general de Prevención, Extinción de Incendios y Emergencias de la Conselleria de Governació i Justícia, the official explanation for the first major casualty of the summer in the local area, the Sierra Mariola, which began at dawn on Sunday, is that the fire originated by lightning. This natural cause is behind one in four such blazes that occur in Valencia every year, well below the national figure of 35%.

But of the remainder, fire investigators from the same agency says that one in three of all fires suffered in the Valencia region, 35%, is caused deliberately while a further 28% of accidents is caused by negligence. The reasons for a further 11% of fires remain unknown or fall under the heading of other causes.

The month of July is traditionally the worst for forest fires in Valencia. Last year the region registered no less than 59 such incidents, followed by August and June with 42, and a further 35 in July, when an area of 720 hectares was destroyed.

Radiography used in the region to investigate the cause of fires shows that in the case of the province of Alicante, half of arsonists are traditionally active in two specific areas: the Marina Alta and Marina Baja, two areas which, interestingly, have both been excluded from the controversial forestry work plan launched only recently to encourage work among long-term unemployed by hiring 1,000 people to both create and clear forest fire breaks, clean gutters and improve the wooded environment in order to prevent forest fires

With no rain predicted in the region for the coming days, the Spanish State Metrological Agency (AEMET) warns that the risk of suffering fires continues to be high.

Filed under: http://www.theleader.info/article/44621/

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