Wildfire destroys 13,500 hectares of land in Aragon

Blaze, which broke out on Saturday, still burning but now under control, say authorities

Video: Firefighters have now brought the wildfire in Aragon under control (Spanish voiceover.)Photo: atlas

Covered up to their necks with green overalls turned black by the smoke, members of the Toledo Forest Fire Reinforcement Brigades (BRIF) finish up their breakfasts shortly after seven in the morning.

It’s Monday, and it’s time to get back to work: the fire that broke out on Saturday and has since razed vast swathes of land in the area of Cinco Villas, in Zaragoza province, is still burning. Nearly 14,000 hectares have been destroyed by the blaze, which firefighters finally brought under control on Monday afternoon. 

Firefighters are optimistic about extinguishing the wildfire, but technicians remain wary

“Its development last night was acceptable, and thanks to that the affected perimeter did not keep growing,” said sources at the Aragon regional government, which is still investigating the cause of the blaze.

For now, authorities are working on the assumption that a spark from a farm’s combine harvester probably triggered “the disaster.”

Around 1,500 residents from five communities had to be evacuated from their homes. Three of the villages – Farasdués, Biota and Malpica de Ariba – began allowing people back in on Sunday, while residents of the other two – Asín and Orés – had to wait until Monday before they could start returning to the homes, said government sources.

The wildfire raging on Saturday.
The wildfire raging on Saturday.JAVIER CEBOLLADA (EFE)

Luis, 38, and his team landed here on Sunday in a helicopter that flew in from Toledo after the Environment Ministry mobilized firefighters from other provinces.

With over 13 years’ experience fighting blazes, Luis gets ready to go back to work. He spent all of Sunday at the front lines of the fire, but today is heading to a local base to await further instructions.

“Around 300 people worked intensely all of Monday night to keep putting out blazes. The changing winds and the rise in humidity helped the land teams do their work,” said the regional executive.

Over half of the 13,500 hectares of burnt land was used for cereal crops. Most of the rest was covered by natural pine forest.

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The firefighting teams are optimistic about their chances of putting out the wildfire, but government technicians remain wary because of the high temperatures and the wind direction.

“It helped that the fire broke into smaller parts while propagating,” said one of the firefighters who participated in the extinguishing effort this weekend. Around 500 people and 26 aircraft were mobilized, together with 341 troops from the Military Emergency Unit (UME).

Translation by Susana Urra.

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