A fire engine passes through an area devastated by the flames in the town of El Pont de Vilomara, earlier this week. / EFE / ANDREU DALMAU

Reforestation company admits sparking fire, while working on the land with a bulldozer

Forest fires are sweeping across Spain, with the worst in the north of the country

ÁLVARO SOTO

The forest fires are spreading throughout Spain, but they are particularly severe in the northern half of the country. In the last three days the most affected communities were Galicia and Castilla y León, but since Wednesday, 20 July, the alarm has also spread to Aragón, where a fire, still uncontrolled, has burnt 14,000 hectares of land around Ateca, 100km southwest of Zaragoza.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez, visited the town on Wednesday. He said that "the government is going to devote all its resources to recovering the areas devastated by the flames". Sánchez once again linked the great fires of the last two heat waves to climate change and recalled that in 2022, "there have been eleven great fires, more than double the national average in recent years, and 70,000 hectares have been burnt throughout the country".

Spark ignited blaze

Notwithstanding, the Ateca fire has a human origin. The reforestation company Land Life acknowledged in a statement that the fire started while they were working on the land with a bulldozer and a spark ignited the blaze.

More than 2,000 residents of the municipalities of Alhama de Aragón, Bubierca, Castejón de las Armas, Moros and Villalengua were relocated in Calatayud, where the assistance services were "overwhelmed" because they had prepared only 200 beds. The fire also forced the A-2 motorway between Medinaceli (Soria) and Contamina (Zaragoza) to be closed. For the authorities, the most worrying factor is the changing wind. "There is a great deal of concern and the outlook is not optimistic," said the president of Aragón, Javier Lambán, whose government declared another fire in Bonansa, in the Ribagorza region in the Huesca Pyrenees, on Wednesday afternoon.

Meanwhile, nine fires remain active throughout the country. These are categorised as being Risk II, the second highest level. The Military Emergency Unit (UME) has deployed 956 troops and 337 resources to assist in the firefighting efforts. Most of these soldiers are stationed in Losacio.

Losacio (Zamora)

The most serious fire of the second heat wave is still active in the area around the town of Losacio in Zamora, where more than 20,000 hectares have already been burnt, according to estimates by the regional government of Castilla y León. The residents of fourteen affected villages were able to return to their homes on Wednesday, after those of 18 others had done so on Tuesday. Although the temperature dropped on Wednesday, the gusty winds in the area made the fire-fighting work difficult.

Cebreros (Ávila)

The wind is also the main enemy in Cebreros (Ávila), where 4,000 hectares have burned since Saturday. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, the fire jumped the road and headed towards the Madrid Community town of Valdequemada, where the prognosis is "absolutely unpredictable", experts said.

Valdepeñas de la Sierra (Guadalajara)

In Valdepeñas de la Sierra, in the northern part of Guadalajara, 3,000 hectares have already burned, although experts from Castilla-La Mancha believe that the flames have "potential" to continue increasing the mass of forest burned.

Montes de Valdueza (León)

This fire, which is proving difficult to extinguish on the north-western fringe, has burnt 2,000 hectares and has caused the eviction of hundreds of residents of Rimor, Orbanajo, Ozuela, San Adrián and Ferradillo.

Galicia

Galicia is suffering a wave of fires that remain uncontrolled and which has left more than 30,000 hectares burnt and dozens of houses destroyed. In O Courel (Lugo) more than 11,100 hectares of land have been burned and in Valdeorras (Orense), a fire that has reached the province of León has torched 10,500 hectares. In Vilariño de Conso (Orense) the flames, which have burnt 4,000 hectares, are affecting the natural park of O Invernadeiro. In Oímbra (Orense), 2,000 hectares have been burnt.

Monsagro (Salamanca)

The best news came from Monsagro, where the authorities downgraded the danger of the fire. In this area of Salamanca, 9,000 hectares have been burnt. In Las Hurdes and Monfragüe (Cáceres), the fire has been brought under control after devouring 6,000 hectares.