Wildfires in Spain: What you should do

Competa fire June 29th 2014

Those of you who follow my Facebook page will already know about the devastating wildfire which spread throughout the Cómpeta countryside last Sunday.

At the height of the blaze there were more than 200 fire-fighters on the ground, assisted by up to 19 fire-fighting aircraft, including helicopters, water-carrying planes, and spotter aircraft.  Personnel were drafted in from the whole of Málaga province and beyond, to the blaze which started around 1pm, but quickly spread over an area of 100 hectares (250 acres) into the Sierras de Tejeda, Alhama and Almijara Natural Park.

Five houses were damaged and the local football pitch destroyed during the day, as well as 500 people being required to evacuate their homes overnight.  

Fortunately there were no injuries reported.

Competa fire June 29th 2014

Rumours are rife that the fire was started either maliciously or as a result of “bad agricultural practices”, but whatever the truth, it was a frightening experience for many local residents and visitors, alike.

You can read Maggie’s account of being caught up with the evacuation HERE or see Adrian’s photos of the aftermath of the fire around Cruz del Monte area, where residents were evacuated, HERE. 

Below is a collage of some of the photographs I took throughout the day.

If you live in a forest in Spain or within 500 metres of one, you are required by law to have a fire prevention and self protection plan in place, just in case a fire should occur.

It’s a sad fact of life, that only around one quarter of all forest fires are started by natural causes, such as lightning.  The rest are as a result of negligent practices or intent.   So, it makes perfect sense that if you are visiting or living in the Andalucían countryside, you should be in a position to consider your options, if you are caught near a wildfire.

Many of the local people have been aware of fires in the countryside all of their lives, but wildfires are not something that many visitors or expats have ever had to deal with, coming as many of us do, from wet, northern European countries.  We are unprepared. 

So what should we do?

Helicopter fighting the Competa fire, 29th June 2014 Fire prevention: 

  •  Have a safe zone around your house, where there is less vegetation.  Keep that area free of dried grass, weeds or other flammable materials.
  • Cut back any branches of trees that overhang your house.
  • Pay particular attention to discarded garden prunings and wood stores, making sure they are a safe distance from the house.
  • Keep gas bottles either within the house or in a safe place some distance away.
  • Don’t allow dead leaves to accumulate on your roof or gutters.
  • When outside,  ensure that all lit cigarettes are completely extinguished before you leave them.
  • Never BBQ near to trees or flammable materials, and always have the garden hose nearby.

Self protection:

BE PREPARED!   Prepare an advance plan with your family, considering what you will each do in the event of fire and how you will communicate with each other.  Also think about how your pets fit into your plans.

  • Review all your possible emergency escape routes, making sure they are never blocked.
  • Always have at least one quarter of a tank of fuel in your vehicle.
  • Prepare a list of items to be taken in an Evacuation Pack.

In the event of FIRE:

  • Call the TOLL-FREE Emergency telephone number 112.  DO NOT ASSUME THAT SOMEONE ELSE HAS ALREADY CALLED.  They may be thinking the same thing.  If you can’t speak Spanish, ask to speak to someone who speaks English.
  • Close all doors and windows in your house.
  • Bring all flammable outdoor chair cushions inside the house.
  • Make safe any exterior gas bottles.
  • STAY CALM and follow your escape plan (if necessary), taking with you your Evacuation Pack.

 What should be in an Evacuation Pack?

Everyone’s will be different, but here are some items you might consider important enough to include:

  • Personal papers – such as passports, birth and marriage certificates, house deeds or rental contract, medical cards, insurance policies.
  • Photographs – either in albums, on flash drives, external hard drives or portable computers.  Also take any charging cables you may require.
  • Medication – paper prescriptions (if you have them), pills, or items kept in the refrigerator such as insulin.
  • Money – enough to tide you over until you can visit an ATM.
  • Emergency food, water and clothing – including snacks, pet food, baby formula, nappies, sanitary items, bottled water.
  • Battery-powered radio – to listen to emergency bulletins on local radio station.
  • Mobile telephone (and charging cable) – complete with contact telephone numbers and addresses.
  • Irreplaceable precious items – but only small ones that will not hinder your escape.

Fire in the campo, Competa

If you live in Málaga province, you might also consider joining the excellent Local Fire and Weather watch group on Facebookcovering the Costa del Sol and inland areas.  

I do not hold myself out as an expert on fire prevention and consider many of the above points to be common sense.  If you can think of anything I have missed that you consider important enough to be included on this list, please let me know in the comment section.

Please follow East of Malaga on Facebook – there are many more photos and posts on there each day that never appear on this blog.  Look in the footer at the bottom of this page to “Like”.