It has been almost a year since one of the most devastating wildfires broke out in Malaga's Sierra Bermeja mountain range. The blaze was unlike anything anyone had ever seen. Its veracity and rapid spread destroyed 10,000 hectares and made the task of controlling it a week-long job and it wasn't fully extinguished for another 40 days.
The fire also took a toll on those that lived near or were close to Sierra Bermeja; thousands were evacuated from the surrounding villages. One such victim was Estepona's Adana (Association for the Rights of Abandoned Animals), a dog shelter whose facilities are located in the mountains.
The damage to the shelter was notable, even though the fire had spread around the facilities rather than through them.
In their September 2021 newsletter Adana, said that they suffered "huge outer-perimeter fence damage", their two-kilometre pipe from the mountain water source was "evaporated" and their storage container unit, which had reserve pumps, dog cages and other items, had "burnt to the ground".
But those listed items were just the tip of the iceberg. "We estimate that there was 25,000 euros worth of damage," Adana president Susie Brown told SUR in English. She could only make that estimation because they were asked, in the immediate aftermath of the fire, what they had lost. "How can you remember and how do you know everything off the top of your head that was in storage units?"
For Adana, getting back up and running wouldn't be easy nor cheap. "We didn't get a pay out by the insurance company, so we had to appeal to everybody and put our story out there," Brown explained. Adana's situation quickly spread online, mainly due to video footage of the fire burning around their facilities being shared on social media. "The public and the local community were absolutely fantastic. We had amazing people come up and donate food, blankets and beds; that helped us out," she explained. "But we had to foot the bill; we've sold everything to keep this place going."
Despite the difficulties of dealing with the damage, the staff and volunteers at Adana couldn't waste any time. "We had over 100 dogs that we had to get back in, so we had to get a sense of normality back really quickly," Brown explained.
Inside, the shelter was a mess. "It was horrendous, it was fire-damaged, black and it stunk. It took us a week, with about 20 of us, cleaning and painting it 24 hours a day," she explained. But as a result, the Adana president believed that the team handled the situation "very professionally" and "some true troopers came out of the woodworks".
Once Adana re-established their water supply, cleaned their shelter, got their electricity back and received the necessary supplies, the dogs were able to return no more than a week after the worst of the fire had been put out. "It was a miracle. We were determined that we were not going to let this beat us," Brown said.