The Sierra de la Culebra forest firein the province of Zamora, is on its way to cbecome one of the worst of the century in Spainalready surpasses the devastating one in Navalacruz (Ávila) last summer, becoming the most voracious in the last decade, with more than 25,000 hectares already burned, is already the most serious in the history of Castilla y León. Far from being controlled, the flames continue their advance fueled by the changing winds, with gusts of up to 70 kilometers per hour, and are already spreading through the Tera Valley
The advance of the fire has forced the cutting of several state infrastructures such as the National Highway 631 and the Madrid-Galicia AVE line. While on the southwestern flank the flames were controlled and the fire is contained, which has allowed the return of the residents of seven towns this Saturday morning, on the northern front the situation is the opposite.
Despite the large number of mobilized media, it is not possible to stop the advance of the fire, which has crossed the N-631 and forced carry out new evictionswith cAbout twenty towns where their neighbors were evacuated before nightfall. So far, the population centers that have had to be evicted at some point are close to thirty and add up to a population of close to 3,000 residents, including those from the seven towns that have been able to return to their homes.
The work to deal with the fire, which is still active and at level 2 – on a scale of 0 to 3 – is focused on the area around the N-631 road. Most of the means of extinction work there, among which are up to 24 aircraft and half a thousand professionals of Castilla y León, Galicia, Castilla La Mancha, Extremadura, Madrid and Cantabria, the Ministry for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge (Miteco) and the Military Emergency Unit (UME).
After crossing the national highway that runs parallel to the Sierra de la Culebra reserve, the fire has continued its advance towards the AVE tracks, which has forced the cutting of the infrastructure railway station near Val de Santa María, due to the dense smoke.
Among the evicted localities, Otero de Bodas, where two goat farmers refused to leave to stay with their farms to defend them from the fire, according to Councilman Adrián Quirogas. In his town, the UME built firebreaks when the flames were 500 meters from the town center and it also delimited an infrastructure that caused concern due to its dangerousness: the fuel station which is located on the outskirts of the town.
In Villardeciervos, the town, although the town center «is perfect, the environment is not. It’s lost, it’s a very big tragedy», regrets the mayor Lorenzo Jiménez. His neighbors are looking forward to returning “but cautiously.”
10,000 hectares per day
The evacuees from the different affected populations, mostly older people, are attended in sports halls of Camarzana de Tera and Benavente, where Red Cross volunteers cover their needs and offer them psychological support. The psychological team of the Red Cross operation for immediate response to emergencies tries to “reassure the population that we can detect is a little more nervous about the situation,” details the Spanish Red Cross Relief and Emergency technician in Castilla y León, Víctor Safe.
One of the evicted neighbors who spent the night in Camarzana de Tera was ironic when she assured that she had been very well “in the five-star hotel” while another indicated that I hadn’t been able to sleep all nightnot only because of the concern of the fire, but also because the beds were not comfortable at all.
Some of the keys to this fire, which for two consecutive days has charred nearly 10,000 hectares each, have been in the strong changing wind, with gusts of up to 70 kilometers per hour, the heat wave and lack of humidity and Phenomena such as the so-called latent rays, which set the tree on fire inside and outside, the fire does not appear until hours or even two days later.
To the advance of the flames also cIt contributes the fire of crowns in the pine forests and the abruptness of the terrain in the Sierra de la Culebrawhile professional firefighters associations, unions and neighbors also point out that part of the operation has not yet been activated since in winter not enough thinning and clearing were carried out.
This Saturday the Government delegate in Castilla y León, Virginia Barcones, visited the area, while the Minister of Family and Equal Opportunities of the Junta de Castilla y León, Isabel Blanco, has been in Benavente with the elders of one of the two vacated nursing homes.