File photograph of a provincial firefighter in action. / SUR

These are the dozen towns and villages in Malaga province suffering from serious fire cover deficiencies

More than 15,000 people live more than a 30-minute drive away from a fire station, considerably increasing the risk to life and property

EUGENIO CABEZAS / VANESSA MELGAR

According to SUR investigations, some 15,600 people in Malaga live more than a half-hour road journey away from a fire station or cover, considerably endangering the risk to life and property in province.

The situation is not new and has been generating complaints from mayors and residents for years but, so far, the provincial government has failed to give an adequate response to the dangerous situation.

The list of affected localities includes five municipalities in the Axarquía (Cómpeta, Canillas de Aceituno, Canillas de Albaida, Sedella and Salares), two in the Sierra de las Nieves (Yunquera and El Burgo), Valle deAbdalajís, in the Guadalhorce area, and four from the Genal and Guadiaro Valleys (Jimera de la Líbar, Pujerra, Faraján and Júzcar).

Árchez and Canillas de Albaida are two of the municipalities that are furthest from the fire service. / E.C.

"An incomprehensible situation"

Among the most affected towns in the Alta Axarquía are Cómpeta and Canillas de Albaida. In Cómpeta, with a registered population of almost 4,000, a site has been set up next to the funeral home since 2015, in which the Provincial Council invested 125,000 euros, to create a fire brigade facility. However, it remains closed. "It is an incomprehensible situation, but the fire brigade technicians say that it does not meet the conditions due to the width of the street and the access", explained the mayor, Obdulio Pérez, demanding that "for once and for all” a station is created for the municipalities in the area.

"Considerable scares"

The mayor in Canillas de Albaida, Jorge Martín, has said that they have already had several "considerable scares" in recent years due to the more than 40 minutes it takes for firefighters to arrive from the Nerja fire station.

The head of the Malaga provincial brigade, Manuel Marmolejo, acknowledged to SUR that there are areas where "travel times are higher, but we are working to correct these deficiencies." He assured that, in the coming weeks, a total of eleven vehicles for extinguishing work will be delivered to some municipalities. The tanks have a capacity of 500 litres, which will be used by the Local Police or Civil Protection volunteers. The list is made up of Mollina, Cuevas de San Marcos, Canillas de Albaida, Moclinejo, Cómpeta, Canillas de Aceituno, El Burgo, Yunquera, Almogía, Istán and Cortes de la Frontera.

There are currently 14 fire stations in province in Antequera, Archidona, Campillos, Colmenar, Vélez-Málaga, Rincón de la Victoria, Nerja, Periana, Ronda, Algatocín, Coín, Alhaurín de la Torre, Estepona and Manilva. Some 250 firefighters staff the services, 30 less than in 2008.

Nerja Fire Station, opened in February 2018, after an investment of close to one million euros. / E.C.

Not operational until 2023

The Provincial Council also continues work on the construction of four new fire stations in Pizarra, between Cómpeta and Canillas de Aceituno, in Antequera and in Rincón de la Victoria. But in all cases, they will not be operational until 2023. The planned investment for these is around nine million euros.

Lack of trained firefighters

However, the lack of trained firefighting personnel is another problem. In the last thirteen years the workforce has dropped from 280 to 250 due to retirements and injuries. The last recruitments were in 2008 but Marmolejo said 70 positions will be added "in the coming months."

A firefighting union spokesman, Francisco Carrasco, warned that the delivery of the eleven vehicles to eleven municipalities "cannot replace the work of professionals. We need the extra 70 firefighters, they are very necessary. We have a very large deficit of personnel," he added.