ENVIRONMENT

Blaze at tire dump outside Madrid was arson, say police

The fire spread rapidly despite previous week’s heavy rains and started in three spots simultaneously

The fire was still smoking on Sunday.
The fire was still smoking on Sunday.KIKE PARA

The huge fire that began on Friday at Spain’s largest tire dump was most likely started deliberately, say Civil Guard investigators.

Video footage taken shortly before the blaze at the dump, in the new town of Seseña, some 35 kilometers southwest of Madrid, shows three different fires along the side of the site.

Police sources say that despite several days of rain, which had filled many of the tires, the flames spread very quickly, suggesting that the arsonists used some kind of fuel.

Police sources say that those responsible for the blaze knew the area, accessing the dump via a side entrance that was not covered by closed circuit cameras

The video, filmed by a worker at a nearby gas station who gave the alarm at 1.30am on Friday morning, shows flames erupting in three different areas.

“Burning a tire is not easy. But once it has caught fire, putting it out is very difficult, because it behaves like oil,” says a Spanish fire extinction expert.

Residents watch as the tire dump burns.
Residents watch as the tire dump burns.

Civil Guard investigators are now assuming that the arsonists used some kind of fuel such as gasoline to set afire the five million or so tires stored on the 11-hectare site, which sits close to hundreds of homes.

Police sources say that those responsible for the blaze knew the area, and accessed the dump via a side entrance that was not covered by closed-circuit cameras. “How is it possible that it was pouring rain just two hours before the fire, and then this happens?,” asked the mayor of Seseña, Carlos Velázquez of the Popular Party.

The problem the investigators will now face is that any evidence that might indicate how the blaze started will have been destroyed in the fire and by the tons of water poured onto it over the weekend.

During a visit on Friday afternoon to the site of the blaze, Francisco Hernando, known popularly as El Pocero, the property developer behind the huge housing development facing the tire dump, offered to pay all legal expenses of any suits brought by residents.

The town of Seseña was already notorious for a massive residential development that stood empty for years and came to symbolize the excesses of the Spanish real estate boom. Meanwhile, the tire dump was declared illegal in 2003 for failing to meet environmental requirements.

English version by Nick Lyne.

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