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Environment

Cantabria on high alert as wildfires destroy 2,000 hectares of land

Heavy winds and drought make it difficult for firefighters to control the blazes

Emergency officials also struggle to control flames in Basque Country and Navarre

Incendio en Cantabria Ampliar foto
Firefighters try to put out a blaze near Vega de Pas, Cantabria.

Cantabria was put on maximum alert on Monday after raging wildfires continued to destroy pristine forestlands and vegetation in many parts of Spain’s northern regions.

About 100 military firefighters from the Emergency Military Union (UME) were mobilized to Cantabria to help stamp out some 80 forest fires in Cabúerniga-Los Tojos and in the Besaya Valley.

Land destroyed was of “very high ecological value,” says Cantabria premier

In the neighboring Basque Country, the Agriculture and Environment Ministry dispatched planes carrying water to Berango (Bizkaia) to extinguish flames that reportedly began on Sunday.

Firefighters were also struggling with blazes in various municipalities in Asturias, A Merca (Ourense, Galicia) and Arantza in the region of Navarra.

Heavy winds and dry lands from a drier than expected autumn season have made it difficult for firefighters to control the blazes, which have extended rapidly throughout the regions, ministry officials said.

As of Monday, the majority of the wildfires were concentrated in Cantabria, where the local government put the entire region on high alert because of the strong winds and mobilized all its resources.

Regional premier Miguel Ángel Revilla said that the fires have destroyed more than 2,000 hectares of land of “very high ecological value.” He said the situation doesn’t look “promising” because winds continue to batter the areas from the south.

In Cabúerniga-Los Tojos, 89 UME officials arrived at around 2am with firefighting and telecommunications equipment to put out more than 15 blazes – the majority of them near the town of Bárcena Mayor.

Another UME team was called to the Besaya Valley where a dozen fires broke out in an area between Los Corrales de Buelna and Cañeda. Other affected areas reported are Alto Asón, where the towns of Arredondo, Ramales de la Victoria and Rasines are located, and the districts near San Andrés (Cabezón de Liébana).

The regional government was studying whether to evacuate some of these areas.

According to Revilla, 99% of the fires were deliberately started by “mistaken people who think land will regenerate itself by burning it.”

Flames from a wildfire in the Navarre municipality of Arantza thought to be under control started up again on Monday

In Bizkaia, firefighters also grappled with heavy winds as they tried to put out the blazes along the Basque Country coast. Environment Ministry planes dumped water in the affected areas near Berango and Sopelana, where between 120 and 130 hectares of land was destroyed, the Basque government security department said.

In Asturias, where the fires broke out last week, some 31 out of 38 blazes are said to be under control.

Flames from a wildfire in the municipality of Arantza, Navarre, which was thought to be under control on Saturday, started up again before dawn on Monday after heavy winds swept through the area. Firefighters from nearby towns were called into action.

Another fire was reported to have started on Sunday near Ourense municipality of A Merca. It was brought under control early Monday after destroying 23 hectares of land, officials said.

English version by Martin Delfín.

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