Following the fire in Malaga’s Ciudad Jardín area last week, in which a 50-year-old man lost his life, it emerged that the province’s fire brigades do not possess aerial ladders long enough to reach the upper floors of more than 1,000 tower blocks around the province of Malaga.
There are 1,158 blocks of flats in Malaga city alone that have 10 floors or more, however the city fire brigade’s longest aerial ladder is only able to reach the height of nine floors (30 metres). This shortfall by the council was made even worse by the fact that the aerial ladder platform capable of stretching up to 13 floors, bought for 900,000 euros in 2005 with great pomp and ceremony, has been out of order for over 18 months.
Residents in Malaga are not the only ones who could be seriously affected by their local fire brigade’s lack of equipment. Approximately 500 other blocks of flats around the province are also at risk of being out of reach in the case of a fire. For example, in Torremolinos and Benalmádena the longest available ladders also only reach up to nine storeys. However, these municipalities have only 132 tower blocks with more than nine floors between them.
More remarkably, Fuengirola and Mijas, two of the biggest Costa municipalities, do not even own a fire engine equipped with an aerial rescue ladder, and in the case of an emergency they would have to wait for one to come from Benalmádena, Marbella or Torremolinos.
The issue is a great cause of concern for many, as residents living on the tenth floor or above could not be easily evacuated through a window or from a terrace. What’s more, even when the ladders are long enough they are only capable of reaching their maximum height if there are no cars, gardens or closed-off areas obstructing the fire engine.
Marbella fire brigade owns the longest aerial ladder in the province, capable of reaching an eleventh storey, however this is still insufficient as the town’s tallest building has 14 floors. However one manager from Marbella fire brigade explained why longer ladders also have their inconveniences.
“Evidently we need to have a longer ladder, however longer ladders are not the most practical as they take up more space at the base,” he explained. The manager also added that although the ladders are limited in height “there are always other alternatives”. However one of these alternatives involves the fireman and the victim having to abseil down the side of the building, a much slower and more dangerous manoeuvre for both.
The events in Ciudad Jardín last week, when the victim’s mother was able to be rescued by the firefighters as they lived on the eighth floor, have forced the local brigades to consider what would have happened if the fire had been two storeys higher.
Fuengirola council has now announced that it is currently in the process of buying a mechanical ladder, and Mijas council has said it intends to do the same.