Salvador with several Infoca members at the fire in Alhaurín el Grande. / SUR

Forest firefighters praise retired local runner who ignored instructions and helped them fight the Alhaurín el Grande blaze

Salvador Pérez, 63, trains in the Sierra de Mijas every day and knows all of its nooks and crannies, paths and shortcuts

IRENE QUIRANTE

Salvador Pérez, 63, a resident of Alhaurín el Grande, has been praised by Infoca firefighters for his assistance in the recent fire in the Sierra de Mijas.

When the fire broke out last Friday, 15 July, in the El Higuerón area of Mijas, it quickly spread to the municipality of Alhaurín de la Torre, and it was clear to outdoor fanatic Salvador that he was not going to stay at home. "Nobody was going to convince me not to help because I knew I could," he said.

This resident of Alhaurín el Grande knows his village's Sierra like the back of his hand. For the last decade, there is not a day that goes by that he has not trained in the mountains. As a result, the runner has explored and discovered all of its nooks and crannies, paths and shortcuts.

Hundreds of locals went to the firefighters' operational command post, next to the sports pavilion, to offer themselves as volunteers. But Salvador was told that it was impossible for him to accompany the firefighters no matter how well-intentioned he was, because of the dangers.

Unguarded access

However, on Saturday, he put on his hiking boots, dressed in cotton clothes and left the house in search of an unguarded access to go into the mountain, towards one of the fires. There he found the firefighters.

Salvador's experience on the ground and expertise was of great help to the Infoca firefighters, who even thanked him publicly on his Twitter account: "63 years old, excellent person and mountain runner. Our applause and recognition". He has also been affectionately nicknamed 'senderito'.

The resident of Alhaurín accompanied the Infoca firefighters and helped to move through the most complicated sections of the mountain. He also guided them to find water at a time when they had run out.

Retreat

"At one point we had to retreat because there was a very powerful fire and, if it wasn't for the fact that I know the Sierra so well, I don't know how they would have got out of there; I took them along paths that are not visible due to the vegetation and got them out through a fence that I knew," Salvador told SUR.

Salvador, a native of Fuengirola, has lived in Alhaurín el Grande for 40 years and says it is impossible to explain "the enormous impotence" he felt when he saw what he considers to be his mountain range in flames. "It's incredible how quickly everything caught fire," he said.

The man's sorrow is shared by the rest of the residents of the town, for whom the mountains are one of the greatest treasures of the area. "How beautiful it was out there and all you could see were trees...," recalls Salvador.