The Council of Ministers approved this Tuesday to declare an area seriously affected by a civil protection emergency (catastrophic zone) as a result of the forest fires on the island of Tenerife along with several areas in the autonomous communities of Andalusia, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, the Foral Community of Navarra, the Valencian Community and Extremadura.
This was announced by the acting Government spokesperson minister, Isabel Rodríguez, in the press conference after the Council of Ministers, where she also referred to the need to move forward in the solution of these problems, just like that of recent days. by DANA.
For his part, the Minister of the Interior, Fernando Grande Marlaska, has presented a preview of the balance of forest fires for 2023, when 37 fires have occurred since last May 17, which forced the declaration of level 1 or level 2 given the level of the emergency.
Among these 37, the Tenerife fire stands out, which started on August 15 and is now stabilized but remains active and has already burned more than 14,000 hectares in twelve different locations and forced the preventive evacuation of some 13,000 people.
Furthermore, he has indicated that both in this case and in the other 36 fires included in the agreement adopted today by the Council of Ministers, the Declaration of Area Affected by the Emergency allows all those affected in the declaration to initiate the request for aid. economic necessary to recover the normality of their daily lives.
Marlaska has defended that the Government has always been clear about its desire not to leave anyone behind until the last of those affected have been able to recover their normality.
Likewise, he explained that in the Council of Ministers, in line with the declaration of areas affected by a Civil Protection emergency, the Ministries for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, Defense and Civil Protection, and the Department of Security and Safety of Science and Innovation, as well as the Interior, have submitted a report on the evolution of forest fires during this year 2023 until the end of August.
So far this year, as detailed, there have already been 87 fires recorded with consequences for Civil Protection and 18 of them have exceeded 500 hectares affected, that is, large forest fires (GIF). In total, the area burned in these fires exceeds 66,000 hectares, two points below the average for the last decade, of which some 47,000 have been burned in the 18 GIF.
The minister has stated that at this moment the State maintains all its means activated in support of the autonomous communities and participates with more than 600 BRIF troops, 26 planes, 24 helicopters, 4 observation aircraft; five air bases of the Ministry of Defense to undertake a direct attack on fire throughout the national territory.
Regarding the participation of the Ministry of Science, it has said that it develops scientific research against fire through the State Research Agency while the Ministry of the Interior, through the General Directorate of Civil Protection and Emergencies, maintains the observation and coordination device of the fire 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with 2,000 UME troops, members of the National Police and agents of the General Directorate of Traffic.
“The Spanish state system integrates thousands of experienced professionals. We are a power recognized throughout the world and we receive numerous requests from other countries to support their efforts in other countries,” stressed Marlaska, who pointed out that Spain has collaborated this year with its extinction teams in Chile, Canada, Greece and maintains a satisfactory reciprocal responsive relationship with Portugal in this matter.
Marlaska has celebrated that this year there are no deaths to be regretted, but 22,300 people have had to be evacuated as a preventive measure. Forest emergencies have not affected large infrastructures either, but he specified that nine of them have caused road closures; six power outages; In six others, rail traffic had to be cut off and in Tenerife, the drinking water service was suspended at times.
Likewise, he has indicated that the Military Emergency Unit (UME) has been activated so far in 2023 in eight fires compared to 55 interventions in 2022.
“I do not intend to convey optimism. Every year we suffer large forest fires. We are facing a new scenario linked to climate change with important implications for citizen security.
their intensity and risk indices increase. The Government is going to continue working to reduce the risks and damages for its citizens and its natural heritage,” said the Minister of the Interior, who has opted for anticipation as the “best tool to confront” the scenarios that both climate and action “Human activity is transforming the forest.”