Forest fire news spreads rapidly across the region thanks to Facebook group

Forest fire news spreads rapidly across the region thanks to Facebook group

27 November 2013

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Spain — With very little rainfall and warm daytime temperatures until recently, forest fires and bush fires have been taking place across the Costa del Sol right into November. In some areas there have been repeated incidents of fires breaking out on scrubland and heathland in recent weeks, with two separate blazes on one night between Álora, Almogía and Estación de Cártama.

Jill Leonard, who created a Facebook group called ‘Local fire and weather watch’, says that the unseasonably dry weather has meant firefighters have been called to deal with blazes which are often the result of bonfires that get out of hand.

Jill says, “There have been lots of stubble fires that have been difficult to control because the surrounding countryside is so dry. Sometimes we post photos and details of fires before the official agencies.”

Recently one resident was alerted to a fire close to her home near Cártama by a family member who rang to say he had seen details of a blaze on Facebook.

“The same group member had to be evacuated later in the week when another fire moved even closer to her home. Police crews allowed her to return to her house just a few hours later but the news from members of the group allowed everyone to track the fire and the firefighters’ progress.”

Jill adds, “Last Friday [Friday the 15th] night a large blaze broke out near the football ground in Álora and then just 20 minutes later fire crews were called to the blaze between El Sexmo and Almogía. This was the third fire in the same area in just a couple of weeks. Some areas had some rain last week but other areas had nothing. For those who live in isolated areas or who have only one access road in and out of their property, knowing which way a fire is heading is so important.”

Funds for equipment

As well as posting news and alerts about fires they spot, members of Jill’s Facebook group have also been campaigning on fire awareness issues and next summer some members hope to raise funds to buy equipment for volunteer firemen and women in the area.

“Lots of the volunteers have to buy or replace their own equipment, so we want to try and help them by doing some fundraising. They do such a great job,” says Jill.

Originally created as a way of sharing fire information following the large forest fire that devastated heathland from Coín to Marbella in August 2012, the fire and weather watch group also warns members about storms, heavy rainfall and high winds.

Jill explains, “We started with just a few members and now have over 2,500 in the Costa del Sol group and similar groups set up for Cadiz to Gibraltar, one around Nerja and inland of the Granada coastline, one in Almeria, Costa Blanca and the Costa Dorada. In total the six groups have nearly 5,000 members of all nationalities. I would never have dreamed in a million years that my idea would have so much support.”

Firefighters tackle the fourth blaze in Almogía in ten days

The emergency services were called out recently night to the fourth fire to affect the municipality of Almogía in just ten days. The strong winds caused the flames to spread rapidly, covering three kilometres in just a few minutes, according to the ProvincialFire Consortium (CPB). The fire had been brought under control by midnight on Friday the 15th.

Investtigators suspect arson as three previous fires had broken out in the same area, Ermita de las Tres Cruces, earlier this month. The most serious was on November 9th when 210 hectares of mountain and farmland were destroyed.

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