JUST before 2.00 this morning (Friday) emergency services were alerted to another forest fire, this time within the protected natural park of Sierra Calderona and by 9.00am, the flames were just 3km from the town of Olocau. However, by midday the blaze was reported to have been brought under control.
Lightning is believed to have caused the fire, as was the case in the fires in Bejís and the Vall d’Ebo, according regional justice minister, Gabriela Bravo. Bravo said that in the electric storms during the night between Wednesday and Thursday there had been around 1,800 lightning strikes across the region and that further blazes were not being ruled out as there could be dormant fires.
In an interview on Cadena Ser radio, Olocau’s mayor Antonio Ropero, explained that there was a problem with smoke in the town and that residents of Olocau had been confined as a precaution. Olocau, which is just 30km north-west of Valencia city, has a population of around 2,500 but being summer that figure is considerably higher.
Ropero said that at first people calling 112 (the emergency number) thought that the fire in Bejís had spread to the Olocau area, but in fact, Bejís is further north and just outside the natural park area. Unfortunately, Olocau is right in the heart of the natural park, an area with virgin forests.
30,000 hectares burnt
The fire in Bejís, Castellón, has now burnt an estimated 19,000 hectares and is still active, while the blaze in the Vall d’Ebo, Alicante, having claimed 12,500 hectares, is now under control. Roads are no longer closed and residents can return to their homes, although there is still clearing up to be done, such as removing vehicles damaged during the blaze.
The regional government has released videos showing up close what firefighters have been up against in the past few hours fighting to contain the blaze in Bejís. “The ones in yellow”, as they are also known, risk their lives, getting close to the flames which cannot be accessed by fire engines, with the help of a fire hose, under extremely high temperatures.
While Wednesday night’s rain gave some respite to those fighting the Bejís wildfire, the strong winds and high temperatures were back with a vengeance on Thursday, and on Thursday morning there was also a noticeable smell of smoke in the air which had blown as far south as the beach to the south of Valencia city.
The smoke clouds from the two blazes can even be seen from the EU’s Copernicus Sentinel 3 satellite.