The 70 year old was burning agricultural prunings on a windy day close to a tinderbox dry area of pine forest
Firemen have brought a major fire in the Castellón province area of La Masía Ferrer de Segorbe (Castellón) under control, working through the night to prevent the fire reaching domestic dwellings.
Six aircraft joined three forestry brigades and 120 support staff and firemen in the fight against the fire, which began just before lunchtime , when an elderly agriculturalist was burning olive tree prunings on his finca and the wind caught hold of the fire.
The 70 year old man has been arrested and will now face charges for starting a major forest fire. Rules for burning agricultural prunings are strict, and in January the Valencia government passed legislation designed to criminalise the act of starting a forest fire through careless management of agricultural burning, which every year costs the government millions of euros to fight. Three out of every four fires in the Valencia region are due to human negligence.
Winds have been very strong in the province over the weekend, indeed on Sunday winds of up to 110k/h were recorded in the Castellón province, and burning prunings on windy days is strictly prohibited.
According to the state meteorological agency, (AEMET), winds were gusting in the area at 40k/h yesterday, a situation which was exacerbated by the dryness in the area. The principal core of the fire was in an area of pine forest, described by the controller overseeing the firefighting efforts “ as very dense.”
Agriculturalists in the proximity of the fire were evacuated as the day wore on and by nightfall the fire had advanced to within 10 kilometres of a population nucleus, but fortunately the wind dropped and firecrews were able to bring the fire under control in the early hours of the morning.
During the day the fire was visible from various points across Valencia, especially from Bétera and the settlements in the Sierra Calderona.
Apart from the wind, the other major issue facing firefighters is the lack of rain which has left hillsides which should normally be damp, tinder box dry. Aemet have said that the area has only registered rainfall of 38 litres per square metre during the last 5 months, when normally 260 litres would have fallen during the same period.
For this reason the Valencia regional government are urging agriculturalists in particular to exercise extreme caution when burning prunings, as without significant rainfall, there is a major fire risk in all forest areas.
The fire has now been declared officially under control, although firecrews will continue to work damping down the area for the rest of the day.
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