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Spain’s forest fire starts early, 4,000 hectares already scorched

Despite efforts to contain it, a significant forest fire in Spain's eastern Castellon region is still burning, following the evacuation

By Ground Report
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Spain’s forest fire starts early, 4,000 hectares already scorched

Despite efforts to contain it, a significant forest fire in Spain's eastern Castellon region is still burning, following the evacuation of over 1,500 individuals from their homes yesterday.

The fire began on Thursday, and according to local authorities, has already consumed over 4,000 hectares of land, signalling an early beginning to Spain's fire season due to extremely dry conditions.

The fire broke out last week near the town of Villanueva de Viver and has surprised experts with its unusual intensity during the spring season. Typically, cooler temperatures during this time of year help keep fires in check, but this fire has been an exception.

This is not good news for Spain, which saw the most scorched earth in Europe during a record 2022. Rubio, 39, said he only expected a fire that would consume around 100-200 hectares, which is what they usually see in March.

What caused the recent wildfire in Spain?

An investigation is ongoing to determine the cause of the fire. According to a report from the regional newspaper Las Provincias, police suspect that it may have started from a spark generated by a machine utilized for collecting brushwood. The fire was able to rapidly spread due to the hot and dry weather conditions prevailing in the area.

On Friday, Valencia's weather agency, AEMET, tweeted that the dryness of the topsoil across the entire region was a result of a combination of high temperatures and westerly winds, as well as the absence of rain in the preceding months.

Due to the release of greenhouse gases, the Mediterranean region is experiencing a faster rate of warming than the global average, which officials from both Spain and Europe attribute to climate change.

Spain has already been experiencing the effects of this phenomenon, including prolonged drought and numerous heat waves.

These conditions have left Spain's vast woodlands incredibly dry and vulnerable to ignition from sources such as a random lightning strike, a spark generated by a tractor or saw, an inconsiderately discarded cigarette, or an act of arson. As a result, the landscape has become a dangerous tinderbox waiting to be ignited.

Are wildfires getting worse in Spain?

Government statistics indicate that last year was the worst year for fire destruction in Spain since 1994, with 666,000 acres burned, which is three times the national average of 94,000 hectares (232,000 acres) over the past decade.

According to the European Union's Copernicus satellite observation service, Spain accounted for 35% of all land burned in European forest fires in 2022.

During a visit to the country's first major fire of the year, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez warned that the worst is yet to come unless desperately needed rain arrives.

Spain's Meteorological Service spokesman Rubén del Campo warned that higher temperatures, expected to reach 9-18 degrees Fahrenheit above average, are forecast for Castellón and the rest of eastern Spain in the coming days.

He added that these expected temperatures are typically seen in mid to late May. Del Campo also explained that the combination of rising temperatures with westerly winds, which become hot and dry as they reach the Mediterranean, causes a drop in relative humidity and an increased risk of forest fires.

More fires broke out in northern Spain on Thursday, with more than 2,718 acres burned in the northwestern province of Lugo and authorities in the Asturias region reporting 97 different fires that forced at least 20 people to evacuate their homes.

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