ONLY one of the three hikers who caused a devastating forest fire in Guadalajara that killed 11 firemen has been sentenced.
Marcelino H. S., the one who lit the barbecue in July 2005 which got out of control and wiped out 13,000 hectares, has been fined 10 million euros and will face two years in jail.
The other two walkers, Iasson K. - a German national - and Juan José J.C. who, like the accused, is Spanish, have been acquitted.
Negligently causing a forest fire, even if not deliberately, attracts a prison sentence, although Marcelino H.S.'s guilty plea and the fact the trial had been so drawn-out – taking seven years to reach a conclusion – were considered mitigating factors.
Although barbecues were authorised in the area in question, it was found that the accused 'acted without taking the most elementary precautions to prevent the flames from taking hold'.
The group had agreed he would watch over the fire, but the court found he did not do so sufficiently.
A spark from the fire – probably a piece of wood or burning ash – set light to the dry pasture near the picnic zone in the Cueva de los Casares area of the Alto Tajo nature reserve in La Riba de Saelices (Guadalajara).
Of the 12 firefighters working on site around the clock to bring the flames under control, only one survived – by hiding under his fire engine to escape the inferno.
The other 11 were killed by the flames rather than the smoke.