On Tuesday, the Council of Ministers officially designated Tenerife, along with several regions across Andalusia, Castilla y León, Castilla-La Mancha, the Community of Navarre, the Community of Valencia and Extremadura, as areas severely impacted by emergency situations due to wildfires. Isabel Rodríguez, the acting government spokesperson, made this announcement in a post-meeting press briefing. She also emphasised the urgent need to address these crises, along with the fallout from the recent hurricane DANA.
Fernando Grande Marlaska, the Minister of the Interior, provided a preliminary review of wildfire activities in 2023. Since 17 May, there have been 37 fires necessitating either a level 1 or level 2 emergency declaration. Of these, the fire that began in Tenerife on 15 August stands out. Although it is now stabilised, it remains active, having ravaged over 14,000 hectares across twelve localities and led to the preemptive evacuation of around 13,000 residents.
The Minister explained that the emergency status allows for affected individuals to apply for essential financial support aimed at restoring their lives to normalcy. Marlaska reassured the public that the government is committed to aiding all affected parties.
In this session, several ministries submitted a collective report on the wildfire situation up to the end of August 2023. According to the report, this year has seen 87 fires with significant consequences, 18 of which were large-scale forest fires affecting over 500 hectares each. In total, these fires have consumed over 66,000 hectares of land.
Spain is currently mobilising extensive resources to combat these fires, including more than 600 BRIF troops, 26 aircraft, 24 helicopters, and 4 observation planes, in addition to five airbases belonging to the Ministry of Defence. The Ministry of Science is also contributing through ongoing research against fires.
Marlaska acknowledged Spain’s global reputation in firefighting, citing its collaboration with Chile, Canada, and Greece this year. While there have been no fatalities this year, over 22,000 people have been evacuated, and several instances of infrastructural disruption have occurred, including road closures and power cuts.
Marlaska cautioned against optimism, stressing the evolving threat of wildfires exacerbated by climate change and its implications for public safety. “We’re witnessing a transformation in forest scenarios, influenced by both climate change and human activity. Proactive measures are our best defence against these increasingly high-risk environments,” concluded the Minister of the Interior.