Spain: Forest Fires in 1997 (IFFN No. 18 – January 1998)


Forest Fires in 1997

(IFFN No. 18 – January 1998, p. 84-85)

Fire Risk

A typical feature of Spain’s fire weather is a short dry season by the end of winter time at the northern regions of the Iberian Peninsula. The drought gives chance to the bushfires set by the country people. Many times carelessness transforms these burnings into forest fires. In 1997 the drought lasted from mid February till April. The high risk conditions brought a very high fire occurrence with thousands of small fires registered in the Northwest. The summertime has also shown unusual conditions after a rainy spring (May, June). Rainstorms and wind blowing from the sea have limited the fire risk all around the country. Only a fire of 600 ha has been recorded by the end of July at the province of Cadiz.

Fire effects

The following table (Tab.1) shows 1996 figures in comparison with the preceding years (until the end of September).


Tab.1. Comparison of the 1996 fire statistical data with theperiod 1992-95.  

Fire Data

Average 1992-95


Number of Fires <1 ha



Number of Fires >1 ha



Number of large Fires (>500 ha)



 Burned Surface (ha)        – Forested



   – Brushland and Grassland



   – Total



Burned Surface as percentage of the National Woodland 0.69 0.29 *

  * This percentage (0.29) is the lowest among the EUMediterranean countries.  


Fire Management

Fire management activities of the different Administrations were coordinated in the National Committee of Forest Fire Protection (Comité de Lucha contra Incendios Forestales [CLIF]). Prevention activities were developed after the III Action Plan of Priorities (PAPIF 1996-99). A general sensibilization campaign made use of all TV networks, with 900 spots. Other activities in the III Plan are: 

  • Increasing mobile patrolling

  • Spreading preventive silviculture to private forests

  • New projects of preventive infrastructure

  • Stronger support to research projects in the fields of fire danger forecastings and prescribed burning combined with controlled grazing.

 More than 20,000 people were involved in suppression activities, supported by the following air resources (Tab.2).


Tab.2. Aerial resources used for fire suppression activities inSpain during the fire season of 1997.  

Aircraft Types


Amphibious aircraft (CL-215T + CL-215)

15 + 5

Agricultural aircraft (2.500 l)


Helicopters for brigade transportation (5 to 20 people plus bucket of 1000-1500 l)


Observation aircraft (sending video images by TMA or microwaves to the Operation Centres and to Mobile Units for Meteorology and Communication


Helibombers (1300 to 4500 l)




The budget devoted by all administrations amounted to near 50,000 millions PTA (US $ 400 million approx.)

The National Committee of Forest Fire Protection CLIF has in the month of June, after a year of preparation, completed a Red Book on Prevention and another Red Book on Coordination. These documents list difficulties and deficiencies in prevention and fire fighting according to the information in the National Forest Fire Database (1968-1995).

The Red Books also list detailed recommendations to improve the efficiency of the concerned Administrations and the effectiveness of the Forest Fire Protection policies.



From: Ricardo Velez
Chief, National Forest Fire Service
General Directorate for Nature Conservation
Ministry of Environment
Gran Via San Francisco, 4
E – 28005 Madrid

Fax: ++34-1-3658379

Country Notes


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