Miguel del Pino: The fire lurking

WWF Spain has just presented its annual report summery in which it warns of the danger of forest fires and advises on how to avoid and combat them. The main novelty this year consists in the proposal of creation of an axis-iberian Spain-Portugal against big fires.

The report to which we refer begins with a call to the Presidents of Spain and Portugal, Sanchez and Costa, respectively, to meet with the goal of forming an “axis ibérico” against the superincendios forest. The dramatic situation which passed by the country brother in the summer of 2017 makes it not only necessary, but very urgent.

The report, titled “The powder keg of the northwest,” has been presented almost simultaneously in Madrid and Lisbon, to remind us that both countries face a common emergency by the large forest fires, calling to those who exceed 500 hectares.

The northwest of spain, and especially Galicia, is the area worst affected by the fires to the Peninsula. In Spain, almost 65% of fires occur in the northwest of the peninsula. Only Galicia concentrates about 6,000 claims a year.

In Portugal, the past year, 94% of the fires occurred in the north of the Tagus. It is the european country most affected by the fire and the world’s fourth greatest area of forest has been lost, due in most part to the waves of fire that each year ravage. It is clear that we have a moral obligation to contribute all our experience and our means to help such a disaster to stop.

For WWF, the fires have ceased to be a problem for forest to become a great social problem. The political and social conflicts unresolved, and the environmental management and forestry obsolete are found in the source of the problem.

This prestigious organization, formerly known as “Adena”, made in their report of the year present an analysis in which the Iberian Peninsula appears considered as “a whole”, so that Governments must take a plan of attack set. Portugal and green Spain will be a hell year after year if we don’t change the old recipes against the fire, assured the secretary general of WWF Spain, Juan Carlos del Olmo. “The cooperation between our countries should not only be economic, it must also serve to protect the cultural heritage which both countries share,” he concluded.

New and devastating fires.

In the last few years have considerably changed the conditions and the dimensions of the great fires, that are beginning to be defined as “superincendios”. The report of WWF attributes this devastating transformation to the so-called “climate change”, but without going into this controversial term, one must recognise that the recent heat waves of long duration combined with the drought are the match that ignites the fire in the tinderbox of the forest.

Surprised by the evolution of large fires during the course of the year as in the areas are especially sensitive: the campaigns of major risk begin before and last until the fall, so that not only during the torrid summer periods there are that keep high the guard. In short, the season of high-risk no longer is limited to July and August.

A disaster foretold

2017 was sufficiently devastating in the Iberian Peninsula for this year, at the beginning of the summer, extrememos precautions. The most relevant in the behavior of the fire was so sudden, almost explosive, that spread a lot of fires, sometimes with unforeseeable trajectories, which became insurmountable.

In Portugal the human victims were most unfortunate. In mid-June, an enormous fire left 64 victims, to which were added 43 in October. In Galicia, one of the waves of fire left 4 dead, and in Asturias and León thousands of hectares were consumed in multiple fires simultaneous pipped to the devices of endangered and threatened populations.

There are that prevent a recurrence of such a tragedy of these dimensions, but for this purpose it is necessary not to miss the diagnosis, that is to say, to know what happened and because of what. Why was the fire so virulent and resulted in so many fatalities?

Among the main causes are the structural problems, such as the continuity of the landscape without a firewall, whether natural or artificial, forest plantations abandoned, the extinction of the extensive livestock farming with the absence of sheep and goats, the disappearance of small-scale crops and orchards, a null spatial planning and the existence of numerous centres of population that get into the bush without appropriate protection measures.

We have had fires explosives that WWF has qualified as a real “storm of fire”. The extreme weather conditions have had a good part of the blame, but this is not the whole problem. The depopulation of the rural environment or the insertion of small buildings in the middle of the bush are also guilty. “If it is uninhabited, burn”, set one of those wise proverbs of the people.

Dispelling some myths

The report of WWF Spain warns of the danger of missing the diagnosis of the problem that supposes the repetition, year after year, some of the myths that, not by repetitive are certain: it has not been possible to demonstrate the existence of patterns of criminal speculative, or burning to revalue the land and trade with the spoils. Many fires are intentional, but due to forest practices or undesirable to the action of armies isolated, not “criminal syndicates in the fire”·.

Nor is there any blame at all to the eucalyptus trees, so demonized in the world ecologist. Everyone who uses paper will need to the existence of forests of fast production of cellulose, and eucalyptus, along with the pine, is at the forefront of this type of crop-timber. The bad are not the forests of eucalyptus, but the eucalyptus forests abandoned. You have to know how many hectares of eucaliptal we need and know how to care for them and manage them.

In short, we don’t know what will be the availability of time and the enthusiasm of the President of Portugal to establish conversations with Mr. Sanchez, and fight elbow to elbow against the fire. The Spanish President will demand that you make an urgent gap is its complex agenda, fill in these dates of appointments with those who do not have precisely intentions to collaborate all together.

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