Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wildfires in Spain

In preparing for our trip to Spain, we have been monitoring news articles about Spain. In the past they have covered everything from the Euro crisis to basketball in the Olympics. More recently, however, the news has been filled with stories about a completely different problem: wildfires. Spain has been hit by the worst string of wildfires since 2002 after experiencing the driest winter in nearly 70 years. High temperatures and low humidity create difficult conditions, and budget cuts have decreased the number of planes and boats equipped to fight the fires. Already, the fires have burned nearly 3 times as much land as in all of 2011.
The Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa, have been hit hard.  One one island, 10% of land has been burned by the fires. The position of the islands makes it difficult for rescue boats and firefighter planes to reach the islands quickly to combat the fire. Thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes and villages. National Parks that shelter rare plants and animals have also been affected, with environmental managers estimating it will take 20-30 years for the areas to recover.

As a volunteer at the Savannas Preserve State Park, I have often seen the results of controlled burns. Prescribed fires are meant to prevent wildfires, burning the area under the best circumstances with staff on hand and ready to put it out. It is amazing to see the land recover after the fires, when the new plants grow across the charred ground. Nature is resilient and it will bounce back, just as strong as ever. I hope that soon those displaced will be able to return to their homes and resume their lives.

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