Beware of blazes!

This is a very special post written by local resident Vladimir Solomatin (aged 10) – accompanied by Derek Evans’ photographs for Spain in Focus. Now we are entering the period of very high risk of fire here in Spain, so it is a good time to remember the terrible fire of summer 2012.

The evening of August 25th was unforgettable – it was the start of the worst fire to hit the Costa del Sol in living memory!

Before the fire the temperature was above 30 degrees C, the humidity below 30% and the wind gusting at 30km per hour (this is known as 30/30/30 : the worst possible conditions for a wildfire).

The terrible fire started on a finca (farm) in an area known as Cerro Alaminos. The careless owner had made a fire, to burn garden waste, which quickly got out of control with disastrous results (consequently the owner has been prosecuted).

All through the day courageous firefighters battled with the inferno, trying to contain and extinguish it. However, they did not succeed. The next morning firefighting resumed, with planes scooping water from the sea and the Istan reservoir. The fires were eventually under control by the Sunday evening and finally, to everyone’s relief, they put out the flames.

Astonishingly, more than 8,000 hectares were burned and 6 different municipalities were affected : Coin, Alhaurin el Grande, Monda, Mijas, Ojen and Marbella (the most seriously affected was Ojen). Smoke and flames up to 30 metres high could be seen as far away as Sotogrande. Ash reached as far as Estepona.

More than 1100 firefighters and 28 planes and helicopters fought, and managed to control, the fire. But sadly, by the time it was all over, more than 200 houses were either gutted or seriously damaged. Animals, both domestic and wild, were also affected (even foxes and boar were seen running down the road !) more tragically there was one fatality : a 78 yr old German man who returned home after being told to leave by the authorities.

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After the fire – Jane and Derek’s house and what was left of the shed !

I interviewed a resident of Ojen, Jane Spence, who was affected by the fire. I questioned her about the events of that night : “How badly were you affected ?” She replied “Everything on our land burned…all the plants and trees. When it was over the land was completely black.”

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“Was your house damaged ?” “No…we were very lucky. We lost our wooden sheds, with all my husband’s gardening equipment and tools – even the metal lawnmower was destroyed ! But nobody in our valley lost their houses or, much more importanrly, their lives. All the damage was to land and buildings.”

“Were you scared ?” “Not so much scared as worried. We were evacuated before the fire got too close. Then we just had to watch and wait…but, of course, we didn’t know if we’d have a house to go home to. We thought we might lose everything !”

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“Do you think that the firefighters did a good job ?” “The firefighters were magnificent. We saw the way that they risked their lives to get the fire under control. They were incredibly brave, and everyone owes them a huge debt of gratitude.”

“Do you think there is a danger of it happening again – maybe this year ?” I asked. Jane raised her hands and said “There will be more fires for sure…this year…next year…who knows ?”

All in all we must be wary…fire can strike at any second, and we must be prepared. If you live in an area where wildfires can happen, keep emergency supplies ready. These can help keep you, your family and your pets safe even if the worst happens.

Suggested Emergency Supplies :

Bottled water – Food – Pet food – Mobile phone – First aid kit – Money – Change of clothes – Blanket or sleeping bag – Copies of important documents.

Post by Vladimir Solomatin and images by photographer Derek Evans.

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