Disasters & Accidents

Spanish wildfires break annual record just 7 months into 2022

(Update 1: Adds latest figures, re-leads, alters headline)

Madrid, Jul 20 (EFE).- Spain has registered its worst year of wildfires in terms of total area lost annually in the last decade just seven months into 2022, according to the latest estimates from the European Forest Fire Information System Wednesday.

Forest fires have engulfed 193,268 hectares (around 476,000 acres) of Spanish land, an area more than double the size of Singapore, in just the first six months of 2022.

The figure so far this year is 3,882 ha more than the total area burned in all of 2012, now the second-worst year logged by EFFIS, which compiles data from the Copernicus satellite program, since records started in 2008.

Spanish firefighters on Wednesday continued to tackle fires spreading in parts of the country’s central and western regions. A fire in the province of Zamora, near the Portuguese border, has killed two people.

This year Spain has lost more land to wildfire than any other European country. It is followed by Romania (149,264ha), Portugal (44,839), France (39,904), Croatia (30,889) and Italy (24,698).

The EFFIS figures more than double the estimated area of land burned provided by the Spanish government as of July 10, which compiles data sent by regional authorities.

Sources from Spain’s ecological transition ministry said accurate data could take years to verify.

Roberto García, a risk analyst for Spain’s military emergency units (UME) said the season “looks bad.”

“As we stand, the data will probably equal or overtake those in 2012,” he said.

There is no significant rainfall forecast for the vast majority of Spain in the coming days — in fact, weather warnings for extreme heat remain in place in parts of the southwest.

García said the wildfire season this year had taken authorities by surprise.

“We did not think it would be like this, but the two heat waves recorded so far have been brutal. We didn’t expect such heat for such a long time.”

Last week, a plume of hot North African air sat over the Iberian Peninsula, pushing temperatures over 40C (104F) across Spain.

“The grass and scrub are very dry and the trees are so poorly hydrated that fires of such intensity are generated and are very difficult to extinguish,” he added. EFE


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