Forest fires in Spain come early

Posted Mar 12, 2012 by Amanda Payne
Normally, the season for forest fires in Spain is the height of summer when high temperatures and dry conditions add to the dangers. However, the fire season seems to have started much earlier this year following a very mild and dry winter.
Firefighter in Spain
Firefighter in Spain
Fires broke out in several different areas of Spain on Sunday March 11 due to the dry conditions. According to El Pais, a fire in the province of Aragón destroyed over one thousand hectares of forest in the Pyrenees whilst fifty firefighters and a helicopter struggled to control it. Officials told the paper that winds in the area were helping to fuel the fire.
Fires also broke out in the regions of Girona and Lleida in Catalonia, some of which are still not under control. People have had to be evacuated from their homes and thousands of hectares of forest have been destroyed. Fire fighters are working round the clock to get the fires under control.
According to the Director General for the Environment and Biodiversity in Catalonia, it is very unusual for fires such as these to break out at this time of year. Already this year, there have been 230 fires which have burned over 1,500 hectares in Catalonia, seven times more land than in all of 2011.
This year has seen one of the driest winters in Spain on record and there are major concerns that if rain doesn't fall soon, there will be many more fires at a time of year when they are not expected. Spain has a very effective fire prevention and fighting programme which is now having to be put into action months earlier than usual.
The lack of rain is also having a detrimental effect on agriculture, with farmers looking to the skies for signs of rain to end the drought. So far, the meteorological office isn't offering much hope but some traditional weather forecasters, using a variety of strange and unusual methods such as looking at the inside of onions, are suggesting that rain will fall in late spring and that summer will be stormy. It's practically a tradition in southern Spain that it will rain for Easter week, known as 'Semana Santa', no matter whether Easter is early or late.
However, time will tell whether rain will actually fall to end the drought and reduce the risk of forest fires.