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Unusually hot weather fuels wave of forest fires in northern Spain

Unusually hot weather fuels wave of forest fires in northern Spain
At least 50 fires active in Asturias, authorities suspect many intentionally provoked

By Alyssa McMurtry

OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - After a week of record-breaking heat, firefighters in northern Spain are struggling to extinguish a wave of forest fires that emerged over the first weekend of the year.

In Asturias, the smoke and haze are tangible in the capital city of Oviedo, where the temperature is expected to hit 19C (66.2F) on Monday.

Authorities said on Monday that 50 forest fires remain active in the region. On Sunday, more than 100 forest fires were burning in Asturias and Cantabria.

Damage has been limited to the land and a few buildings, but the fires are threatening villages in the areas of Belmonte and Salas.

The conditions for the fires were made possible by a powerful winter heat dome that brought summer-like temperatures to the north of Spain over the last week.

The cities of Gijon, Bilbao, A Coruna, and Salamanca are just a few that have broken heat records in recent days as the mercury reached close to 25C (77F).

Even after the area received record-breaking rainfalls in November, this anomalous heat has dried out much of northern Spain, leading to destructive floods and landslides.

But the fires themselves are not thought to be a natural occurrence.

The sheer number of small fires leads authorities to believe that most, if not all, were intentionally provoked.

“It’s terrible that the indecency of just a few are putting Asturia’s landscape and rich natural environment at risk,” Asturias President Adrian Barbon tweeted.

Many fires were likely set by farmers who wanted to clear brush from land to make way for grazing. According to a local environmental group, it was because the law in Asturias stipulates that land that has been burnt can be used for pasture afterward.

The group said Asturias is the only region in the European Union to allow this practice and official reports have shown that 80% of forest fires are related to creating more land for grazing.

Others point to local pyromaniacs, notorious for setting fires when conditions are ripe for burning.

“Everyone in towns knows who is starting the fires. But no one says anything. That's because pyromaniacs are violent people ... and if you do say something, the next mountain to burn is the one next to your house,” tweeted local journalist Aitana Castano Diaz.

source: News Feed
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