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Stacks of roundwood in Sierra Mijas. J. R. C.
What's happening to the burnt wood in the Mijas mountains?

What's happening to the burnt wood in the Mijas mountains?

The fire, declared on 15 July 2022, has prompted the implementation of a recovery plan for the regeneration of over 600 hectares affected between the municipalities of Mijas and the two Alhauríns

José Rodríguez Cámara

Wednesday, 7 February 2024

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It was on 15 July 2022 that fire broke out in the Mijas mountains. Given the close proximity of houses to this 'green lung', the flames, which reached uncontrollable levels, forced the evacuation of 3,000 people. The fire was not considered contained until 19 July, and was not extinguished until 3 August. It caused significant damage to its surrounding environment, and prompted the implementation of a recovery plan over the area of 612 hectares across the municipalities of Alhaurín el Grande, Alhaurín de la Torre and Mijas. This work, which began shortly after the flames were extinguished, has since been completed, but what has happened to the burnt mass left over?

According to José Antonio Vízquez Ruiz, delegate for the regional environment department in Malaga, this burnt mass cannot remain in the sierra, and must be removed quickly. "If we don't do that, it would be a disservice to the forest," he said. He pointed out that the presence of burnt trees or undergrowth in a healthy woodland is a source of pests and other issues, and ultimately creates a problem for the regeneration of the natural space, which is itself a slow and complex process. To be exact, 33,525 tonnes of biomass have been extracted from the three affected areas, 10 per cent of which is roundwood, Vízquez stated. Roundwood is the name given to trunks that are cut down and are without their branches or canopies, and, in this case, damaged by flames. Despite its condition, this material is far from useless and has value in the market. It also has environmental benefits as a carbon sink, for leisure or tourism purposes, and possibly for the controlled extraction of wood or the collection of bushes.

These 33 thousand tonnes of vegetation, which can be used to make agglomerate, fibres, or even fuel, have brought in 325,440 euros at 9.7 euros per tonne. "A fire always does damage, so I don't want people to think that the burnt wood has some kind of added value," Vízquez explained, referring to the relatively small income. Moreover, as the regional government pointed out, if we take into account that the work to restore the forest involved 2.2 million euros from public funding, we reveal a "deficit" of 1.87 million.

Burnt trees from the fire of summer 2022.
Burnt trees from the fire of summer 2022. J. R. C.

Transformed landscape

The Mijas mountains separate the western Costa del Sol from the Guadalhorce Valley. Situated in the foothills of the Churriana district, the mountains also cover parts of the municipalities of Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Mijas, Alhaurín de la Torre, Alhaurín el Grande and Malaga. The fire has turned much of the landscape into a wasteland, where there once was a woodland that provided shade, and a new network of tracks, open to the heavy machinery used for forestry work.

Heavy machinery used for transporting trees, between the municipalities of Mijas and Alhaurín de la Torre, which was affected by the fires.
Heavy machinery used for transporting trees, between the municipalities of Mijas and Alhaurín de la Torre, which was affected by the fires. J. R. C.

Given that the forest is located near some densely populated areas, it remains a very attractive place for nature lovers, with trails that often revolve around its peaks. Two of these are Mount Calamorro, which can be reached by cable car, as well as the Mijas mountains, at the top of which sits a weather station built in the shape of a ball, and hence known as the 'Pico de La Bola'.

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