The union of the entire Canary Islands when it came to putting out the fire that Tenerife experienced was unanimous and seamless. Firefighters, foresters, volunteers were sent from all the islands and municipalities… Santiago del Teide was no less and did not want to be left behind in showing the solidarity of its citizens in times of need. Its mayor, Emilio Navarro, president of the PP in Tenerife and senator for the Island, emphasizes that, although his municipality was not directly affected, he, like the rest of the mayors of the island municipalities, experienced the advance of the front with concern and were available to the authorities for whatever they may need.
How did Santiago del Teide experience the recent fire?
I suppose that the feeling was the same among all citizens, of deep anguish and empathy with those who were affected by an event like this. In our case, the volunteer firefighters of Santiago del Teide had a relevant participation in areas such as Igueste de Candelaria or Los Realejos, and we always make ourselves available to the competent authorities to help with whatever is necessary. We were not an affected municipality, but the love for the mountains of Tenerife goes beyond the municipal boundary.
As head of the PP in Tenerife, what do you think about the means used in the fire and what assessment do you have of the action?
All the means we have are few for a fire of these dimensions. 22 aircraft intervened in the extinguishing operation and still more than 14,000 hectares were burned; more than 600 ground personnel collaborated, including intervention, security, logistics and volunteers teams. I believe that so many media outlets have never been seen together, but I believe that the important thing is what we do from now on to collaborate in prevention.
Economically, there have been significant losses. How do you stop a catastrophe like this?
We must work to rebuild, especially the primary sector. The Cabildo of Tenerife has carried out a first economic assessment of the damage caused by the fire and it amounts to 80.4 million euros. Only in the area of Industry, Commerce, Primary Sector and Animal Welfare they are around 14.2 million euros (14,255,000 euros). My fellow Primary Sector and Animal Welfare counselor, Valentín González, among others, is involved in repairing these losses, who, from the Cabildo and in conjunction with the social and economic agents, will articulate the precise measures, beyond the declaration of an emergency zone. established by the central government.
The primary sector has been one of the most affected, without a doubt.
This is precisely reflected in the data provided by the counselor. The analysis is that a total of 635 hectares of agricultural land have been lost, where damage worth 7.5 million has been caused. There are surfaces affected temporarily that could recover in one or two years and then there are surfaces where the recovery will be nil. We are talking about the impact on chestnut trees, fruit trees and, fundamentally, hydraulic infrastructures, which are the ones that have been most affected in the agricultural field. Later, in the livestock sector, the losses and damages caused by the fire have been valued at 1.5 million and fundamentally stables, implement rooms have been affected, as well as losses in milk production and cheese production, as a consequence of the own eviction process. And we cannot forget about beekeeping, whose production line has been greatly affected and has led to the disappearance of more than 3,500 hives, to which we must add the loss of broom and chestnut trees, which are the ecosystem of the bees. The loss of irrigation water is also a consequence that must be considered.
In his electoral program, digital transformation, resilience and respect for the environment had special relevance.
Exactly. In areas like the one we are dealing with, it is about applying all of this to work on fire prevention, for example, with the use of drones, the implementation of 5G in the municipality… Connectivity allows us to have many more tools to analyze the data, both in the mountains and on the coasts, which is where we are making a lot of efforts. We also have very clear lines when it comes to protecting crops in almond tree areas with pruning and cleaning of the forest, and it is in this aspect where we must influence so that, despite the fact that climate change can multiply the frequency of these fires, they can be controlled sooner and better.
Does Santiago del Teide have a specific municipal emergency plan against fires?
We are about to approve the PEMU where there are obviously references to these contingencies. Unfortunately, we have also suffered from these fires and it is obvious that we have to capture that possibility in this document.
As a Senator, what actions can you take to make visible the need for differential treatment of the Canary Islands due to their remoteness, seaplanes or more financing for helicopters?
As you say, remoteness is a factor that affects all aspects that concern the Archipelago, both in the case of passenger transport and in cases of emergencies, therefore the importance of having air bases in Canary Islands to suffocate them as soon as possible. The La Palma fire and the last one in Gran Canaria also showed us how important it is to have these resources, times are changing, we have increasingly extreme temperatures and it is important that the remoteness of resources is not a factor when it comes to to stop a fire like the one we are remembering.
You were in the work area on several occasions.
I approached Igueste de Candelaria where the municipality’s volunteer firefighters were; we were going to distribute food but, above all, to give them lots of encouragement for their work and effort. Sometimes a hug and a pat on the back are as important as any other element of logistics, because people have to see themselves recognized in that work. I would like, above all, to reiterate that willingness and great work done and above all that support that exists between the different bodies that act to put an end to the fire.