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The Junta's Antonio Sanz, with the relatives of Carlos Martínez Haro. Juan Carlos Domínguez
Sierra Bermeja remembers the brave forest firefighter who lost his life tackling major blaze in 2021
Memorial

Sierra Bermeja remembers the brave forest firefighter who lost his life tackling major blaze in 2021

Carlos Martínez Haro died in a wildfire that burnt more than 7,600 hectares of land and forced almost 3,000 people to evacuate their homes - including many on the Costa del Sol

David Lerma

Estepona

Monday, 11 September 2023, 14:46

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A bronze memorial has been unveiled for brave firefighter Carlos Martínez Haro who died two years ago while battling the devastating Sierra Bermeja fire which affected several municipalities on the Costa del Sol. A statue in his honour now stands near the top of Los Reales in Estepona, very close to where the 44-year-old died while fighting a front of flames on 9 September 2021. Family members, mayors of the affected municipalities, politicians and Plan Infoca colleagues gathered there on 8 September to honour Carlos' sacrifice.

The Sierra Bermeja fire in which Carlos died began in the municipality of Jubrique on 8 September, 2021 and also spread through Faraján, Júzcar, Casares, Estepona, Genalguacil and Benahavís. It affected more than 7,600 forest hectares, which were burned, and forced the evacuation of almost 3,000 people from their homes. It was one of the most damaging and dangerous in living memory in Andalucía. Between 8 and 14 September, because of its severity, it required the participation of 4,761 Infoca troops and 231 aircraft

Antonio Sanz from the Junta reminded those gathered at the site of the memorial, "we had to declare emergency Levels 1 and 2," and highlighted that "with this catastrophe the expression 'sixth generation fires' began to ring alarm bells, since the energy released into the atmosphere by the fire changed the conditions increased risk of an explosive pyrocumulus system and flames falling from the sky. That was a scenario that Carlos and his companions had to face for the first time.

Rafael Yebra, director of the Almeria provincial operational centre, the area where was based, said: "We want to send a hug to the whole family of Carlos Martínez Haro on behalf of all Infoca colleagues and, above all, to the colleagues of the Alhama forest defence team who worked alongside him as firefighters".

"We have said practically everything about Carlos in these two years. But I would like to highlight two things that his own colleagues and his family have passed on to me; the joy and dedication he had during the course of his work and the tenacity he always put into being part of this team," Yebra added.

Two daughters

The bronze statue, by Amando López Gullón, shows the Plan Infoca fighter wearing personal protective gear, his rucksack and his 'pulaski', the combined axe and scythe used by firefighters on the frontline of wildfires. At the foot of the statue are two plaques which read: "In memory Carlos Martínez Haro, who gave his life in the Sierra Bermeja fire 9 September 2021" and "To the men and women of Plan Infoca who give their lives in the defence of the Andalusian mountains".

Carlos was a father to two daughters and had battled fires with Infoca for six fire seasons. The Junta's Antonio Sanz added: "He was cheerful, fun, enjoyed growing organic vegetables, loved nature and was a staunch defender of the Andalusian mountains".

The statue erected in Los Reales is not the first recognition of Carlos Martínez Haro. The Junta de Andalucía also awarded him the Gold Medal for Merit in Civil Protection last year "for conduct which shows exceptional courage and selflessness, at the risk of one's own life". Estepona town hall also awarded him the Gold Medal for Merit.

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