HOT weather and human intervention blamed for the Mijas forest fire which thankfully missed Mijas Pueblo but rapidly spread into parts of Alhaurín el Grande and Alhaurin de la Torre on Friday July 15.
Very much like the two fires that devastated the Sierra Bermeja and resulted in thousands of people being evacuated from Estepona in 2020 and Benahavis in 2022 this fire spread quickly and also led to evacuations although there were no reported fatalities.
In total, the fire covered some 1,875 hectares of land which is equivalent to 18.75 square kilometres and during the progress of the fire more than 400 firefighters were involved with numerous helicopters and aircraft dropping water onto the affected area.
Reports suggest that there were three initial seats of the fire which in turn implies arson, as has been suggested by Mijas Councillor Bill Anderson in a tweet on July 15 “The photograph clearly shows three separate fires on the Sierra de Mijas. I’m no expert, but three fires smack of arson. These people are criminals.”
More than 2,300 people were evacuated from their homes, although they were able to return relatively quickly but once again, when faced with adversity, local residents pitched in, with some volunteering to assist the fire fighters and others offering shelter for evacuees or transport for domestic animals which had to be moved.
The fire was declared under control by Plan Infoca the organisation in charge of co-ordinating the response as late as July 19 but what that means is that it hadn’t been extinguished but was under control on land that doesn’t contain vegetation but may still contain ‘hot spots’ which is why a small number of firefighters were kept on duty until such time as it was completely extinguished.
Local resident Maureen told Euro Weekly News “I couldn’t believe how quickly it got out of control on the Friday – it had been burning all day in various parts of the mountain and then suddenly it just took off.
“One minute, masses of smoke and then 100-foot flames just bursting out all over – I was standing in a crowd of people they were visibly upset.
“I know people who live in a house not far from where this happened and they were refusing to move out – very frightening and hard to put into words.”
Now that things have started to settle and after applauding the fantastic work undertaken by all of those of involved in deal with the fire, a number of questions are going to be asked.
Uppermost in most people’s minds is whether this was a deliberate case of arson and investigators will try to identify not only if this is the case but also who, if anyone, was responsible.
Clearly the Mijas Council believe that it was deliberate and on July 18 announced its intention to lodge a private prosecution against any person arrested or charged with starting the fire so that they can be punished for their actions.
In the meantime, the Council will be discussing the damage done to the forest with the emergency services and the actions that may be needed to restore some of form of normality to the area whilst it will also increase the level of drinking water being made available to local wildlife.
In the meantime, it is alleged that the Mijas Council has not been responding to a number of requests from the Junta de Andalucia over the past 18 months to sign a cooperation and maintenance agreement with the Junta concerning the need to provide fire breaks and other preventive measures which may affect the level of special assistance the Junta may be able to offer.
This is to some extent born out by a recent post by a firefighter involved in the conflagration who presented a video of part of the area near to the fire which he compared to an obstacle course as no clearing of dry vegetation or creation of recommended fire breaks had taken place.
Sadly, it seems that these fires will become more widespread in the coming years and therefore councils need to become smarter and more proactive rather than reactive in order to protect residents, the environment and wildlife.
For those who want to be kept aware of fires in their area, there is one very useful App which allows people to keep up to date and this is Wildfire Watch Andalucia which is available for Android or Apple phones free of charge.
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