Agriculture and Environment Minister Miguel Arias Cañete, who last week was admonished by the opposition for a lack of visibility during the recent, devastating forest fires, emerged on Thursday and stated flatly that his department had made no errors in its handling of the La Gomera blaze in the Canary Islands. Although Cañete conceded that the situation in Spain is “extremely worrying” after 132,000 hectares burnt – “92 percent more than the average over the past decade” – the minister said that spending cuts had not played a part in the proliferation of wildfires this year.
“Although my department’s budget has been cut by 29 percent, the only part that has been increased is firefighting, from 71 to 74 million euros,” the minister argued.
Cañete also accused the Canaries regional government of reacting slowly to the La Gomera blaze, which caused the evacuation of thousands and has destroyed 11 percent of the island’s land surface.
The only part of the budget that has been increased is firefighting”
The minister said that the state’s response to the La Gomera blaze had “worked very well,” and claimed that the regional administration did not alert the central government of the wildfire until the early morning of August 5, the day after it started, “losing precious time.” A firefighting aircraft was dispatched at 8am the same day because the model used has to fly in light, and five more were sent “very quickly” after the blaze reignited on August 10.
“In La Gomera 2,300 sorties have been made since the fire restarted up to today,” Cañete said Thursday. “This gives an idea of the intensity of the work of state resources.”
Some of the aircraft dispatched to La Gomera were redeployed to Tenerife to extinguish a second blaze on Wednesday.