The year 1998 can be classified like an average year, according to the forest fire risk. In the month of March a dry period at the Northwest increased the risk, giving opportunity to many grass and bush fires which in some cases developed into forest fires. After a rainy spring, the month of July was rather hot, showing a sudden increase of fire danger in Northern Catalonia, where the largest fire of the year started on 18 July 1998. In August the danger shifted again to the Northwest. Consequently a reinforcement the suppression resources was necessary. Several air tankers and BRIFs (hot-shot brigades) were sent from other regions. By the end of the summer a rainy period reduced the danger along the whole country. However the drought started again, lasting nearly until the end of the autumn with many grass and bush burnings and fires again at the Northwest.
Table 1 shows the 1998 data in comparison with the preceding year. The most important fires are listed in the Table 2.
Tab.1. Wildfire statistics for Spain 1994-1998
No. of Fires (< 1 ha)
No of Fires (> 1 ha)
No of Large fires (> 500 ha)
Burned Surfaces (ha)
Brushland and grassland
Burned surface as a % of the national woodland area
Tab.2. Wildfire Statistics by place and area burned in 1998
Woodland Surface Burned (ha)
13-16 March Villayón (Asturias) 2,207 ha 26-30 April El Paso (Isla de la Palma) 1,450 ha 18-22 July El Solsonés (Cataluña) 19,979 ha 30-31 July Cíjara (Ciudad Real) 678 ha 8-12 August Las Hurdes (Cáceres-Salamanca) 1,721 ha 23-26 August Vilaflor (Isla de Tenerife) 1,649 ha 22-28 August Xurés (Orense) 2,097 ha 13-15 September Luyego (León) 3,321 ha 29-30 November Sanabria (Zamora) 3,000 ha
Four victims were registered:
A farmer when setting a brush burning at Castrocontrigo (León)
Two firemen in a coordination helicopter, crashed in Gerona
A forest firefighter of a municipal crew in Xurés (Orense)
The resources available during 1998 have been rather similar to those during 1997 (see IFFN January 1998). This year the amphibious aircrafts CL-215 T of the Ministry of Environment performed two missions abroad:
The first one in the month of April at the Monte Gurugú (Morocco), by the Spanish town of Melilla. The fire started from several bonfires lighted by people hidden in the forest awaiting for an opportunity to enter illegally in Melilla and from there to Europe
The second one in the month of August, at Santarem (Portugal), during three days
The Ministry of Environment is preparing the new Spanish Forest Strategy, which will include a section on forest fires, according to the Red Books on Prevention and Coordination approved in 1997.
Like a conclusion this year again the Severity Index of Spain (burned surface as a percentage of the national woodland area) is the lowest among the European Union Mediterranean countries.
Fig.1. Regional distribution of total number of fires in Spain, 1998
Fig.2. Regional distribution of forested area affected by fire in Spain, 1998
Fig.3. Regional distribution of total burned surface (forested and non-forested) by fire in Spain, 1998
Ricardo Vélez Chief, National Forest fire Service General Directorate for Nature Conservation Ministry of Environment Gran Vía San Francisco 4 E-28005 Madrid Fax: 34 91 3 65 83 79 e-mail: ricardo.Velez@gvsf.mma.es