Update on fires in Catalonia, Spain

The following is information from Chuck Bushey, President of the International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF). It is published here with his permission.


Marc Castellnou is one of the Incident Commanders involved in the Horta de Sant Joan Fire in Catalonia, Spain that experienced the burnover resulting in four fatalities and two severely injured firefighters. He is also a former member of the IAWF Board of Directors. Marc has assigned one of his firefighters, Daniel Krauss, to periodically update us on their most current fire situation and the status of the injured firefighters. Following are Daniel’s reports. This first report arrived 10:13 MDT, the other just this morning and I have just added it to this email. Daniel reports that one of their injured firefighters has died. The Team is understandably asking for some time before providing more information on the fire.

Reportedly there are about 25 fires burning in Spain with “hundreds” of firefighters involved and about 8,000 hectares burned (nearly 20,000 acres) involving numerous communities. Additional fires are burning in the Mediterranean areas of France where one firefighter has been injured, two civilians have reportedly been killed in a wildland fire on the island of Sardinia while authorities were implementing evacuations, fires in Corsica has caused the evacuation of two villages, and wildland fires are also burning in Greece in the southern Peloponnese and the island of Evia.

Chuck Bushey, IAWF President and FireNet Moderator


(Received 10:13 PM MDT)

The fire in Horta Sant Joan remains active but the fire crews reached to prevent it from further spreading and growing although the gusty winds and low humidity’s complicate suppression efforts. The fire is reported almost contained by control lines where the terrain allows access and the perimeter is stabilized by continuous drops from the aircraft involved. The fire has consumed 1.140 hectares so far.

The firefighter who suffered burns on 75% of his body remains unchanged in serious condition. The state of the second injured firefighter who suffered 50% burns has deteriorated during the last hours and is critical.

(Received 7:56 AM MDT)

Things have gone worse in Catalonia and one of the injured firefighters, Pau Costa, has died today in the hospital.

We will provide you more information on the firefighter fatalities later on.

The GRAF team now needs some time among themselves and they asked me to shield them from contact mails and visits from outside until Tuesday or Wednesday next week as far as I can. Certainly everybody will understand and respect that.


Another firefighter dies in Spain

Another firefighter has died on a wildland fire in Spain when the fire truck he was driving crashed into a ravine while he was responding to a fire in Teruel province.

This is the fifth fatality in Spain in the last few days. Four firefighters died on July 21 while working on a fire in the eastern Catalonia region.

TypicallySpanish has two videos of the fires in Spain. The second one has more images of the fires.

Firefighters take cover as an air tanker makes a drop on a fire near Collado Mediano, Spain, on Tuesday. (Pedro Armestre)

Four firefighters killed in Spain


From news.sky.com:

Four firefighters have died and two others rushed to hospital with life-threatening burns on July 21 after tackling a blaze in the north of Spain. The firefighters were caught off-guard by a sudden change in wind direction.

The men were involved in efforts to extinguish a huge wildfire which has so far burned over 800 hectares of forest in a national park near Tarragona, in Catalonia. Local officials say the firefighters appear to have been caught off-guard by a sudden change in wind direction, which stoked the blaze.

“They were prepared, capable, qualified firefighters,” head of the Catalan regional government Jose Montilla said. “A change in meteorological conditions caused them to lose their lives.”

One of the two men who survived suffered burns to 75% of his body, while the other suffered burns to 50% of his body, a local government official told news radio Cadena Ser.

A water-dropping aircraft was called in to help fight the blaze as the municipality of Horta de Sant Joan came under threat.

But Spanish fire crews were stretched across the country battling a number of blazes. A fire burning near the town of Collado Mediano, northeast of Madrid, forced the evacuation of some 2,000 people before it was brought under control.

Wildfires in the regions of Cuenca and Ciudad Real also prompted local authorities to close stretches of roads. Forecasters said the strong winds which have fanned flames were expected to ease, but scorching temperatures – as high as 41 degrees Celsius in some parts of the country – would remain for several days.

Euronews has a good 51-second video report about the incident.

Our sincere condolences go out to the families and co-workers of the firefighters.

Drought in Spain: more fires

From France 24:

Fires destroyed more than twice as much land in drought-hit Spain during the first three months of 2008 as over the corresponding period last year, the government said Tuesday.

17,364 acres (6,945 hectares) of land were lost between January and March as Spain endured its worst drought in decades, figures from the environment ministry showed.

However, the area of forest, scrub and pasture ravaged by flames during the first quarter was about 20 percent less than the average recorded over the past decade during the same period.

About 80 percent of land lost to fires was located in the northern regions of Asturias, Cantabria, Galicia, Leon, Zamora and the Basque Country.

Spain’s water reserves are at 47.6 percent capacity due to a lack of rainfall, the ministry added.

The drought has hurt crops and hydroelectric power production with the northeastern region of Catalonia especially hard hit.

The environment ministry has been trying to reduce the number of forest fires that affect Spain each year through preventative measures such as banning barbecues in the countryside in dry regions, and more effective campaigns to clear roadside garbage and forests of fallen leaves and branches.