Spanish fire department fighting wildfire

The other day our youngest daughter contacted us to hear if we were okay and not caught in the wildfires. We could assure her, that we were both okay and asked her where that came from. She told us that the Wildfire was all over the news. Obviously, the Danish journalists have no clue about warm climates or they had nothing better to do than to scare our loved ones. Because our daughter wasn’t the first one asking.

Wildfire as a part of daily life

Wildfire Spain summer 2022

This year there are a few more wildfires in Spain (and other countries) because of the extreme draught, but it’s actually not much worse than last year. When living and traveling in high-risk countries we learn to be alert, prepared, and very cautious. 

First of all, we would never dream about throwing a cigarette butt on the ground or making any kind of bonfire. We’ve even traded our charcoal barbecue for one running on gas because it’s a little easier to control and it doesn’t create any sort of sparks. 

Second, we’re very aware of where the smell of smoke comes from. Is it from a stove or something unauthorized? 

But our best way to stay informed is the Wildfire app, telling us if there’s a wildfire in the area. 

For now, it only exists in the part of Spain called Andalucia, but I think the plan is to expand it, so it covers all of Spain.

Not just one wildfire

Wildfires in the app don’t include house fires or fires in cars (this happens quite often because the cars are submitted to extreme heat). So only confirmed forest fires, fires on fields, fires in ditches, and such. As you see in the video, there’s been quite a few this month, but again only a few more than we’re used to.

Especially one of them has caused a lot of damage (it wasn’t even the one they talked about on Danish television). Even though the fire started 16 days ago, it took the firefighters 5 days to stabilize it and the fire is still popping up once in a while, so it’s still not 100% extinguished.

Hotels and houses were evacuated, animals rescued and the huge support system we’ve seen so many times before worked once again.

How do wildfires start?

Often wildfires are man-made, unfortunately. Not always on purpose, but cigarette butts, burning garbage (even though it’s prohibited) and sparks from power tools are in most cases the reason for a wildfire.

But a shard of glass or the sun through a water bottle can also cause a fire because they both work like when you start a fire with a magnifying glass on purpose.

Smoke from fire Spain 2022

Why are wildfires so hard to put out?

Of course, the main reason is that everything is so dry and everywhere you look there are dried weeds, bushes, and trees that can keep on feeding the fire. Farmers and plantation owners are doing a good job though, by making “belts” with no vegetation between their crops, so a possible fire will not spread. But one of the dangers is the many olive trees.

Olive trees contain a lot of oil and not only in the fruit itself but also in the branches and the roots. This makes it really difficult to put out a fire in an olive tree and the real danger is happening underground.

It’s possible for the roots of a burning olive tree to carry enough heat to ignite the tree beside it from the ground, and spread that way. This means that depending on the age and the root system of the olive trees, a whole plantation can burst into flames from below and there’s no way to know which tree will burn next.

The support system

We’re amazed about how it seems like everybody knows how to act when a fire begins. Once in Greece, we saw a car burst into flames while driving and how the car behind it stopped, the driver jumped out with a fire extinguisher. He literally put out the fire in 30 seconds. Then he made sure the man with the burnt car was okay and drove off. All this in two minutes and with no panic at all from either of them.

We also came across a wildfire in Greece that had started in the ditch and spread to the field and even though flames were raging, the traffic continued. A man simply stood there and guided people through the smoke that covered the road, while waiting for the fire brigade. It seemed so crazy while we were in the middle of it, but it was pretty logical when we thought about it afterward:

Stopping traffic would create chaos, that would prevent the fire trucks to get through, and should the fire spread rapidly, even more people would be in danger if they were gathered on the road in their cars.

Besides quick thinking and first aid, schools and sports venues are open for people who have been evacuated and the locals are standing by with water, food, and clothes.

Even the animals are cared for. When there’s a wildfire, the animal shelters start a chain of volunteers who are picking up animals and bringing them to safety. Both wild animals, animals who have been separated from their owners and livestock. It’s amazing to see people calmly stand together like that.

Spanish fire department fighting wildfire

Back to the media and our daughter

We wish that the media would talk about these things too, instead of just creating fear like they did to our daughter. Sure it’s scary, terrible, and costly when a wildfire is raging, but there’s always a plan that (in most cases) keeps people and animals safe. Somehow the media forget to look at that angle, even though the volunteers and firefighters really deserve credit for their tireless effort.

Now you know a little more about wildfires too. Let us know in the comments if you have any wildfire related thoughts, stories or questions.

E & M

(The words for this blog post were originally written in July 2022, so obviously the active wildfires we write about have been put out. But unfortunately there’s been many since).

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