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Cantabria ablaze: 15 fires out of 32 still burning, but no risk to residents
BY WORKING round the clock since the early hours of this morning (Monday), Cantabria firefighters have extinguished over half of the mass infernos reported in the northern coastal region in just one day.
At the time of publication, the initial 32 wildfires had reduced to 15, and the Armed Forces emergency response unit (UME) was able to send its 226 workers back to base.
Although no immediate danger is believed to be present, the 15 fires remain active and are being watched overnight in case of a flare-up.
Increased humidity and lower temperatures, as well as the wind changing direction, mean the risk to residential property is diminishing, the regional fire brigade reports.
Rain forecast in the area in the next couple of days is eagerly awaited, as this is likely to help in the extinguishing efforts.
So far, nobody has been evacuated, although vast swathes of woodland have been destroyed across the centre of Cantabria.
The 15 fires on land belonging to 11 towns and villages were found to have been started in 100 places, and it is believed the majority were the work of arsonists.
Guardia Civil officers caught a man aged around 35 in the Cabuérniga area, red-handed, with a cigarette lighter, and another aged 39 is under investigation in San Roque de Riomiera, although neither are said to be under arrest at present.
Cabuérniga is where one of the worst of the fires was based, with huge walls of flames stretching across open countryside, spreading perilously close to homes in the villages of Los Tojos and Saja.
Other blaze zones described as ‘challenging’ include Ramales de la Victoria and Pisueña.
Dry conditions and a south wind fanned the flames after the arsonists got to work, and up to 194 wildfires have been reported in Cantabria since Thursday.
This January was the third-worst in Spain in a decade for forest fires, with nearly 72% of them being in the northern regions of Asturias, Cantabria, Galicia, the Basque Country, and in the provinces of León and Zamora in Castilla y León, and over 90% of land destroyed by infernos being located in the north-western part of the mainland.
January and February are not normally active forest fire-risk months – these disasters tend to be more common in summer when lack of rainfall and intense heat leaves large areas of countryside dried out and vulnerable.
Most regions ban bonfires, barbecues and fireworks within around half a kilometre of rural or forestry areas in summer.
The majority of wildfires in Spain are caused by human negligence or, less frequently, arsonists, although a lightning strike in a remote rural area of the Valencia province mountains sparked an inferno in August near the village of Llutxent, spreading to five others including the coastal town of Gandia.
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