He Tenerife Council will invest 7.5 million euros until June 2024 in urgent recovery work on Mount de la Isla after the fire that hit the forest mass for almost three months, starting on August 15. The insular area of Natural Environment, Sustainability and Security and Emergenciescontracted emergency work to 22 companies for that amount within a global investment of 29 million to be carried out between 2024 and 2026, always with own funds. There are two fundamental lines of action. On the one hand, replace the Californian radiata pine, imported for reforestation with negative results in the 50s and 60s of the last century, with native vegetation to recover, basically Monteverde. On the other hand, actions to stop the effect of runoff in case of rain. To check the timing of both processes and remember that there are still areas that cannot be accessed, the insular Institution organized a visit by the media led by the president, Rosa Davila (CC), and the vice president, Lope Afonso (PP).
Dimension. The fire affected 2,000 hectares, almost 8% of the island’s surface, most of it pine trees and in the forest crown of Tenerife. The plant jewel. The figures help to dimension, a verb that is very difficult for an islander to conjugate, but essential to understand the volume of the fire that devastated the mountain from mid-August, when the fire began between Arafo and Candelaria until just a few days ago, five to complete three months, at which point the Cabildo declared it officially extinct.
The Calderetas. First stop: Las Calderetas recreational area in the municipality of El Sauzal. The characteristic smell of the mountain seems to have changed to an aroma similar to ash. The noise of chainsaws cutting wood replaces the usual noise of birds or, simply, silence. A delegation of almost a dozen Cabildo vehicles tours the areas affected by the flames. It is the time of reconstruction and the desolation of the burned forest is impressive. Tongas of accumulated wood will be used by the two remaining sawmills on the Island, mainly to make pallets. This year they will not lack raw materials.
Noise. The group reaches an area where a provisional track has been opened without leaving Las Calderetas. A peculiar noise surprises you throughout the day. The one that causes the fall of a pine tree, then another and, later, another one. From 30 meters high on average. In this case in a controlled manner, but other specimens may no longer withstand the effect of the flames that damaged their structure irreversibly. The surrounding landscape is that of mixed branches and pine needles. They warn you not to leave the path, because there are gaps in the middle and your ankles are in danger.
Job. The heavy machinery occupies the foreground due to the spectacular nature of its intervention, but what stands out is the work of the chainsaw operators, key to starting this process of future forest restoration. About thirty media workers have come to check how everything is going, with Dávila and Afonso at the helm. In the background are Blanca Pérez, Minister of the Natural Environment, and Pedro Millán, insular director of the Environment. But today is the time for the technicians. From the command, Pedro Martínez Tito, who was the media face of the fire, and his colleagues Eva Padrón and Adela Conde, Bernabé Gutiérrez, the forestry brigades or Carlos Sánchez, foreman of the Tragsa company, whose workers have risked the type against fire, just like those from the Cabildo did. Without forgetting Pablo Pascual, an expert engineer involved in the fight against erosion and its possible effects in the event of runoff.
Assessment. Rosa Dávila pointed out the importance of undertaking the work to guarantee the safety of people: «As we have seen, there is a danger of trees and branches falling and also areas with affected soil. Therefore, it is necessary that the population respect and follow the instructions we give them.” In addition, she pointed out that the fire affected many specimens of radiata pine, “which will allow us to replace it with native species of Monteverde and Canarian pine. “We had already planned to replace these specimens, but the fire has forced us to do so immediately to avoid the risk.” For his part, Lope Afonso explained that the objective of the Cabildo “is that people can use the mountains safely” and recommended following the instructions “through official media and the Tenerife ON application, of the Cabildo, designed for the use and enjoyment of the natural spaces of the Island.
Roadmap. The urgent works being carried out are actions to address the risk of trees falling on people and vehicles and the danger of erosion in the basins. It was possible to verify the cutting works in Las Calderetas, which seek the elimination of the radiata pine, and on the El Rayo track, already in the municipality of La Matanza, the work on the monteverde with the construction of fascines for damage reduction due to runoff and soil retention, in case of rain.
Complete. It is absorbing to see how the forestry processor works (costing half a million euros). With an articulated mechanical arm, it carries out a complete felling of the tree: it fells it, cleans it and cuts it to leave the wood stacked in large trunks. The task is enormous, despite the effort. It is almost certain to extend beyond the end of this year. Among other things, we must eliminate these imported pine trees that fall as soon as the wind blows. Mainly, on the edge of the trail or in places where they can roll on them and create risk for mountain users. The action requires that specific forestry machinery, such as the aforementioned processor or the crusher tractor.
Erosion. Action is also taken in areas where the fall or felling of these trees can produce intense erosive effects due to soil loss. In these cases, fascines will be built, transverse structures that slow the speed of the water when it passes over them and retain part of that eroded soil. A protective layer or mulching, composed of crushed plant remains from felling, cuts or clearings, replaces the vegetation as far as possible. Another key task is reducing the velocity and erosive capacity of runoff. For this reason, in addition to the fajinas, albarradas are not ruled out, more powerful constructions against the risk of avenues of rocks or other debris. The idea is that the water goes down slowly and does not channel forcefully through the ravines and put inhabited areas at risk.
Nine companies. For these emergency actions, nine companies have been hired, which mainly make cuts in highly affected areas of Monteverde at this beginning of the process. In addition to the emergencies already described, the staff of Medio Natural and the public company Tragsa carry out actions in areas risk of landslides or in the construction of infrastructure to protect forest trails, trails and recreational areas, or in the repair of hydraulic networks affected by the fire. All of this could be seen in a view that, upon returning to the inhabited area and descending through La Esperanza, allowed us to see the ruggedness of the terrain (jump by jump) and the lack of telephone coverage. Adverse factors that these workers have overcome with effort and professionalism.