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Devastating Ateca Forest Fire caused by work to combat climate change

Updated: Jul 28, 2022

Spain is suffering the worst season of forest fires since 2012 as forest fires rage across the country, including Aragón, but the cause is not always as obvious as people might think.

The Ateca fire in Aragón has caused the closure of the A-2, the major motorway between Barcelona and Madrid, in both directions. Traditional rail routes are suspended but the high speed railway lines, although closed for a time, are currently running. More than 2,000 people have been evacuated from several villages and towns in the area, Alhama de Aragón, Bubierca, Castejón de las Armas, Moros and Villalengua. The residents of Ateca are on standby for potential evacuation as the wind patterns and progress of the fire are being monitored. Most of the evacuated have been transported to Calatayud, where facilities were quickly overwhelmed.

The fire has already consumed 14,000 hectares, as many as the devastating fire of Luna in 2015, but the current blaze is still a long way from being brought under control. It is anticipated the damage may equal or exceed that of the 1994 Maestrazgo fire in Teruel, which destroyed 18,000 hectares.

The fire is a result of work carried out by a contractor working on forestry planting for a carbon offest company called Land Life. The equipment digging holes to plant trees sparked the fire, and reports suggest that this is the second time this has happened in the last month. As reported by The Heraldo.

Francisco Purroy, director for Spain and Portugal of Land Life released a statement expressing "we are devastated".

"We have been at the fire control post all day. We do not want to avoid responsibility and for that there will be a thorough investigation," insists Purroy. "The million dollar question is why those jobs were done in those hot hours. In this context of climate change, no matter how much we can have all the papers, authorizations and everything in order, in the end it will be a lesson learned for all of us who are involved in reforestation projects".

The company has announced that all work is currently suspended in high risk areas and Purroy confirms they will comply witl local authorities in their investigations

Antonio Borque, the mayor of Bubierca, was critical of the decision to carry out such work in the current heatwave, but he is not the only voice raising concern. The Association for the Protecton of Nature have called for an immediate halt to all such activity in high risk areas. Javier Escorza, president of the association stated "With this heat, any spark generates a fire".

There seems to be a lack of reporting on the cause, which will anger locals further, who already insist they have been unable to maintain forest land and local landscapes to avoid such potential disasters.

Several other villages in the area remain on standby for potential evacuation and the prognosis for the management of the fire is bleak. The Copernicus European Emergency Management Service shows the current extent of the fire and the most up to date predictions for development.


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