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In Spain, a first big fire of the early year, against a backdrop of prolonged drought


All the conditions were met to spark a gigantic fire: abnormal temperatures for the season, exceeding 25°C, even approaching 30°C, extremely dry vegetation, linked to a severe and prolonged lack of rain, an air humidity rate of less than 30%, and strong winds, exceeding 30 km/h. On Thursday March 23, three days into spring, the first major fire of the season in Spain broke out inland in the Valencia region in the east of the kingdom, forcing authorities to evacuate eight municipalities, i.e. nearly 1,800 people.

On Sunday afternoon, a provisional report showed 3,900 hectares of forest devoured by fire, in an area of ​​pine forest and scrub, near the magnificent natural pools of Fuentes de Baños, not far from the Sierra de Espadan natural park. . After a lull on Saturday, fears of an uncontrollable resumption of the fire kept authorities on alert all day Sunday, when temperatures of 27°C, humidity below 20% and strong winds from west exceeding 50 km/h were new recorded on the spot. In the evening, nearly 500 firefighters and 20 bombers continued to fight the flames, contained within a perimeter of 40 kilometers.

Pending official confirmation, it seems that the fire was started by sparks from a municipal brushcutter, used in the village of Villanueva de Viver, in the province of Castellon, on the border between the regions of Aragon and Valencia. Four people were heard by the gendarmerie on Saturday. However, beyond the human factor, this early fire above all illustrates the fragility with which Spain approaches the “fire season”, while the country is experiencing one of the most prolonged droughts since 1970. “These fires, so premature, are further proof of the climate emergency that humanity is experiencing”, reacted on March 24 the head of the Spanish government, Pedro Sanchez, who was to go to the scene on Monday. A feeling of helplessness in his voice, the spokesperson for the firefighters of Castellon had made a similar observation: “ We are facing a fire specific to the summer…”

In the province of Castellon, it has only rained the equivalent of two days in the past four months, and a volume seven times lower than “normal” values, according to the lecturer in climatology at the Jaume-I University of Castellon, Jose Quereda. Added to this drought is the aggravating factor represented by the abandonment of rural areas in inland Spain, which favors the accumulation of large quantities of dead wood and other “plant fuel” in the forests. Conditions that are found in many other regions of the country.

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