Helicopters in action at the height of the blaze. / EUROPA PRESS

Junta allocates 4.6 million euros for emergency actions once the Sierra Bermeja fire is finally out

A court in Ronda has ordered secrecy surrounding the investigation into the cause of the fire but the Agriculture Minister, Carmen Crespo, said, "We hope that the culprits will pay for the environmental and personal damage, which claimed the life of a firefighter"

ANDREA JIMÉNEZ

The Junta de Andalucía will allocate 4.6 million euros to emergency actions in the Sierra Bermeja, for the first phase of work that will be carried out after the fire is declared fully extinguished – something that has not yet happened.

The fire has been "controlled" since 13 September, but it has not yet been declared "extinguished", since there are still several areas where pockets of smoke give away the presence of fire.

The devastating wildfire destroyed almost 10,000 hectares in the Sierra Bermeja and Genal Valley and forced almost 3,000 people in five municipalities to be evacuated from their homes. At its height, more than 50 aircraft and 1,000 specialists on the ground battled to contain its spread.

According to the Junta’s minister of Agriculture, Fishing, Livestock and Sustainable Development, Carmen Crespo, "This investment is something unheard of, we are acting with great speed, even before the fire is out, which we hope will be as soon as possible - but we must be cautious," said the councillor.

Crespo said that the first phase of emergency actions includes the recovery of the burned land, clearing access to forest tracks, repairing rural roads and the removal of harmful elements to reduce flooding risks.

Reforestation

Once the emergency phase has been completed, other phases – including reforestation – will follow.

A forum, chaired by the Minister of Agriculture, will see the President of the Provincial Council, Francisco Salado, the mayors of the seven affected municipalities participate along with representatives of environmental groups, agricultural organisations and cooperatives, rural development groups, forestry companies, veterinarians and political parties.

Crespo has also offered provisional data on the fire. In total, it affected 9,581 hectares, with Estepona as the most damaged municipality, with 4,209 hectares burned, 43 per cent of the total. It is followed by Jubrique with 1,600 hectares, (16%) Casares, with 1,343 hectares burned (14%), Júzcar (654 hectares, 6.8%), Faraján (304 hectares, 3.17%), and Benahavís (0.22 hectares, 0.22%). In total, 78% of the burned land is publicly owned.

Court secrecy

However, Crespo has not given any more information about the investigation into the cause of the fire, since a court in Ronda has ordered the secrecy of proceedings. However, the minister said, "We hope that the facts will soon be clarified, and that the culprits will pay for the environmental and personal damage of this fire, which claimed the life of a firefighter."