Most forest destroyed by fire in last 10 years As of 11th September 2005, 153,000 hectares have been burnt of all land types, 26% more than in 2004 and the highest in the last 10 years, aside from the year 2000. Worst year for fire in last 10 years (El Mundo) From 1st January to 21st August there have been 20,952 fires and burning 129.438,6 ha. 54% more land destroyed by fire so far in 2005 over 2004 (Terra - Spanish) Until 31 May 11,842 fires, 66.46 more than 10 year average, 3 of which were +500ha. 27,839 of these hectares were burnt in 63 hours around July 27th in Minas de Riotinto in Spain's worst single fire since 1991.
While forests are expanding in much of northern Spain, the south appears to be condemned to more and more loss and consequent desertification. The abandonment of traditional forestry uses such as charcoal burning, selective felling and forest grazing is a serious problem in many of Spain's forests. We should of course not forget that lightning-induced fire is a natural part of Mediterranean ecosystem. A firefighter tries to extinguish a fire at Folgoso do Courel, next to Santiago Compostela, Galicia, northwestern Spain, today. A firefighter's vehicle works arrives at the scene of a wildfire in Sant Salvador de Guardiola, Spain. This is producing an overly-dense structure with too many small trees and a stagnated growth, perfect for the propagation of fire. Mediterranean forest is indeed resistant and to some extent dependant on fire, which may occur naturally every 5-30 years.
Spain's environment minister Cristina Narbona has warned of a ‘complicated summer' in terms of forest fires.
Along with scorching temperatures, both Portugal (occupies roughly the western quarter of the peninsula) and Spain (occupying the remainder of the peninsula) have been experiencing dangerous wildfires in late July.

The fire, which started on Saturday, has burnt some 200 hectaresThe fire is still out of control but authorities said weaker winds and rising humidity were helping slow its advance. Around 800 people were evacuated and 124 spent the night in sports complexes, local firefighters said.Elsewhere, in the northwestern region of Galicia, another wildfire near the town of Navia de Suarna was stabilised late on Sunday after ravaging 431 hectares of a nature reserve. Several of this year's forest fires will have dire consequences for local economies based on forestry and hunting.
But in its true and almost vanished form it is made up of large trees with plenty of space between each one, and with sparse undergrowth kept closely cropped by herbivores: a slightly denser version of the classic dehesa landscape, which itself is less prone to fire. Catalonia has had its best year so far since 1970 with a mere 260 ha up in flame for the first eight months in comparison with the 9,719 of Jan-Aug last year. In Spain, at least two people were killed when their car was engulfed by a fast moving fire. Trade-unionists and ecologists have blamed the ferocity of this and other fires on the neglect of Andalusia's forests, blaming the regional government for abandonment of the countryside and for not properly staffing the network of fire warning towers. The eucalyptus has been used to reforest huge areas of Spain for the production of cellulose, but is being steadily abandoned in competition from cheaper paper from the Third World.
This is the certainly the case of the second most serious fire to affect Andalusia (and probably Spain) this summer: the 7684 ha burnt in the heart of the Sierra Morena , one of the most ecologically important areas of the country.
Plentiful and fortuitous rain, lower temperatures an alert fire brigade and an absence of pyromaniacs are all cited as reasons.
Fire is of course a natural and necessary element in the Mediterranean forest but its regeneration depends on their frequency and severity.
In northern Portugal (top left) numerous fires (marked in red) were detected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Aqua satellite when it passed over on July 28.
If there was anything more than token policy for reintroducing autochthonous species, one might even say it was a good thing, but as it is, reforestation in this damp corner of Spain will be swift.

Six pairs of Spanish imperial eagles inhabited the burnt hunting estates: The fire has decimated rabbit and partridge populations on which they live. Around 90% of forest fires in Spain are lit on purpose or caused by carelessness and neglect.
Last year, despite being so hot, just (sic) 15,992 ha were burnt in Spain, well below the average of 38,469 ha since 1994.
To the southeast of Lisbon, a large fire is burning the Algarve tourist region along Portugal's southern coast. The figures for the first five months of the year are already 19,287 ha, 75% of which was matorral (scrub). There are hundreds of fires along Galicia 's coast of year, yet all along the Rias Bajas and Altas there is an almost continuous mono-crop swathe of these Australian trees. Although it is possible that some of the firebreaks were not as clean as could be desired, all agree that little could be done once the fire started to rage.
By far the biggest firebreak in the area is the River Tinto and its bare deforested banks, but the flames just leapt across it. If and when it stops raining for long enough and the new growth dries out, there's going to be plenty to burn in Spain's forests this year, though we all know that it won't be nature which will spark the vast majority of it. Whatever the case, millions and millions of euros are spent every year on fire prevention and extinction, and every year thousands and thousands of hectares go up in smoke. When up to 90% of this loss is sparked deliberately and the authorities find it almost impossible to establish blame and secure convictions, one is left with the pessimistic conclusion that fire on a massive scale is fact of life in the Spanish summer months.

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