Sad news occupy the front pages of all newspapers these days. In less than a month, the flames of several fires have devastated more than 60,000 hectares in the province of Zamora. To give you an idea: the burned area is 29 times larger than the one that covered the volcano of La Palma. And four times bigger than the entire island itself. The fire in Losacio is already the largest in the history of Spain and the fastest growing in the history of the planet since records have been kept.
The numbers. They are devastating. The European Copernicus program has estimated that 36,000 hectares would have burned only in the Losacio fire in Zamora. A catastrophe that is even worse if you add the almost 25,000 that the fire at the Sierra de la Culebra in the same region. The record of 34,290 that burned in the fire that swept through Minas de Riotinto (Huelva) in 2004 has been broken.
Dance in the measurements. For weeks, the dance of figures has been constant. The Minister of the Environment, Juan Carlos Suárez-Quiñones, spoke at press conferences that the Losacio fire would be “more than 20,000 hectares.” Later, the official Twitter account of Environment, Nature Castilla y León, echoed the measurement of Copernicus with the 36,000 hectares devastated. A chaos of figures that highlights the lack of precision in the calculations in case of fire.
🔥 35,960 ha burned
🔸 #IFLosacio | Level 2⃣
⬆️ Level 2 on July 17
– Nature Castilla y León (@naturalezacyl) July 21, 2022
the fastest fire. It devoured 10,000 hectares in 4 hours. This makes it the fastest in history. “An inextinguishable fire,” according to the firefighters in the area, which was fed by the mountain and the high temperatures. Apparently, lightning was to blame for such a disaster. Up to 35 fires (most of them almost extinguished) advanced everywhere with winds of 40 kilometers per hour that complicated the situation. Two people died in an event “never seen” in the region.
Seven out of ten hectares burned are in Zamora. 73% of the burned territory in our country is in the Zamorano territory. The area burned in forest fires in Spain is already estimated at more than 81,866 hectares so far in 2022. Of this brutal number, more than 60,000 hectares are from the two major fires in Zamora, according to Copernicus. A disaster of biblical proportions.
The worst year in flattened area in three decades. Heat waves are the perfect trigger for large forest fires break out. The two that Spain has experienced in June and July prove it. So far this year, satellite data shows the destruction of 200,000 hectares. It was the June heat wave that doubled the devastation: the Ecological Transition statistic went from 25,000 to 73,000 hectares. Almost triple. Then came the July heat wave and we are where we are.
Suffice it to say that the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS) indicates that this 2022 is being the worst fire season since the start-up of the system in the year 2000.
Climate change. The reasons why there is an increasing meteorological risk of fires is extreme weather. Whether it’s high temperatures, drought or wind, these exceptional seasons are producing more devastating fires. And when you consider that heat waves have become much more common and intense, we already know what the future holds. And yes, the alteration of the climate is produced by the human footprint.
High intensity fires. The large dimensions of what is lived in Zamora, Cáceres or Lugo warn of a problem that has grown in recent years in Spain. As discussed in this analysis of eldiario.es we are experiencing a boom in large forest fires (of more than 500 hectares): Few, but devastating. And the big drawback is that now they spread more. According to the data, on average each large fire burns almost twice as much surface area as it did 30 years ago.