On Saturday about 2,000 wildland firefighters demonstrated in Madrid for improved workers’ rights. In Spain most of them are employed by regional agencies and work for four months during the summer fire season.
They are asking for more training, that the government recognize the category of wildland firefighter, and that they take into account the risk inherent in the job.
“We are risking our lives for a four-month-a-year contract and earning just over 1,200 euro,” said Jesús, who said he was one of five firefighters entrapped in a fire in Almorós, in Toledo.
“I am 57 years old and I don’t know how long they are going to keep me in a forest fire or carrying a chainsaw,” said María José.
Reuters has video of the demonstration which appears to show hundreds of firefighters demonstrating in the street. Many of them are wearing their uniforms and in one scene a group with flappers beat them on the ground rhythmically.
In the United States federal wildland firefighters have many of the same issues as their colleagues in Spain. But they have not yet taken to the streets.
Nine countries in Europe set records in 2022 for the total burned area since the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) began collecting wildfire data in 2006. They were Austria, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain. The difference this year compared to the 15-year average was extreme in Spain, Romania, and France.
Spain’s new record is by far the most notable with 299,635 hectares burned this year compared to an average of 66,965.