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A collaborative article with Graciela Waen about wildfires in Spain

A collaborative article with Graciela Waen about wildfires in Spain

The Introduction to this article was written by Graciela Waen - District Governor Elect, member of Benahavis Club and "Godmother" to our Club.
Graciela has submitted her article for publication in España Rotaria, with our article as the 2nd part which she translated into Spanish for the Spanish magazine.

                                                 WHEN ROTARIANS ARE CHANGED FROM GIVERS INTO RECEIVERS
                                                                     MARBELLA – THE FIRES OF 30TH AUGUST
                                                                                         THE ENVIRONMENT

After more than 50 years of preventative actions against wildfires in Spain, we still need to remember that when summer arrives there is an increased risk of wildfires in our country, due to the high temperatures and lack of rainfall at this time of year. However, unfortunately, human beings are behind most forest fires.

Mass media campaigns have been started to alert all citizens about this situation and to ask the public to take responsibility for the prevention of these dreadful forest fires.  Although many human and material resources are mobilised every year to defend our mountains against fire, it is essential that everyone collaborates in this important task.

Property speculation, over many years, has been the cause of the damage that is done to the land. However, according to INFOCA, at the present time negligence and abandoned land (not growing vegetables any more) have been the causes of many of the fires. Moreover, although nobody sets fire to the mountains, the natural surroundings are very vulnerable “mainly for socioeconomic reasons”.  “The usage of the mountains has been abandoned and much biomass - organic material – has started to accumulate, that is to say, a great amount of extremely inflammable material”.

Land clearance is prohibited in Andalucía for 10 months of the year but, unfortunately, as it has always been a normal habit to set fire to cleared land, starting fires which get out of control is still common, even at the end of winter and especially when there has been insufficient rainfall.

The recovery of the burned areas, speaking only of land, in some cases can take more than 50 years since the normal structure of the land has been modified by altering the natural nutrients and creating a compact layer of ash; moreover, it is complicated to rehabilitate the wildlife, the diversity, and the final self-modification of the microclimate of the affected zones.

With these things in mind, I have made a copy of a letter that the Rotarians of the Marbella-Guadalmina Club wrote after becoming the victims of the giant fire that affected the Costa de Sol at the end of August; where they experienced the anguish of being evacuated from their homes and being the recipients of all of the aid given by the organizations involved in extinguishing it.

                                                     Marbella – WILDFIRES – August  30th 2012
                      by Linda, Lynda, Labeed, Paul and Philip - members of the Rotary Club Marbella-Guadalmina

We all went to bed on Thursday night knowing that there was a huge fire near to Coin, about 7 km east of the El Rosario area of the Costa del Sol. Wildfires are common in this area from July to September and the wind was from the west, so we were aware but not concerned.

At 2.15am 3 of the ladies, in their homes around El Rosario, were suddenly aware that the curtains over their open windows were being sucked outwards. Each looked out of windows towards the fire and realised that it was close to the houses abutting the ‘campo’.  The smoke was dense, acrid and glowing red. There was a roaring noise and the air was full of large, glowing embers. The ladies shook their husbands awake. In each house they dressed rapidly, gathered up passports and pets and loaded their cars. In one case the fire officer was climbing over the high, garden wall to enter the front garden and give evacuation instructions. He reminded us to take our pets.

Most of us compared notes when we met up at the urbanization entrance. By now it was 3.0am and the Don Quixote Restaurant had opened to take us in and care for us and our pets. The owner handed out water, coffee and beer and refused all payment.

We were told that the area was under the control of the Military Police and we were not allowed to re-enter the urbanization until the police considered it safe.

The police, both Military and Local, were charming, helpful and caring as well as being efficient throughout the long night. People kept arriving, some wearing almost nothing and shoeless, with babies in only nappies – many were very shocked. An ambulance from the local DYA Ambulance organisation was parked outside the restaurant and the paramedics were caring for injuries and shock and even managed to provide nappies for the babies.

There was a ‘bottle-neck’ at the entrance to the urbanization of fire appliances needing refilling and emergency vehicles going in and out. The police prevented any private vehicles from entering because the fire was blazing in many gardens and some parked cars on the north side of the area had exploded.

Ours is an old urbanization and many of us are very good friends, so we sat through the night catching up with gossip. One of our club members followed police instructions to care for his pet and was seen sitting on the front at Puerto Banus with the cat close at hand. During the long night we all agreed that Life and health are more important than property. The German Bakery opened early and we put out the tables and chairs so that they could start their normal breakfast service immediately.

The fire helicopters started to fly over the area at dawn to check if the fire was fully extinguished and we were allowed to return to our homes at about 9.30 on Friday morning.

We are sitting down to write this in the mid-afternoon on Saturday 1st September. 2 helicopters with water buckets are trying to dowse a re-ignited fire about 400 meters from this house.

[On September 14th the Rotary Club Marbella-Guadalmina hosted a Beach Party at a local chiringuito which was attended by many members of other local and foreign Rotary clubs. Money was collected to give to the DYA Ambulance Service so that they can purchase supplies to replace those used in helping fire victims. 1050 euros was raised! This is in addition to the sum of 1,200 euros already donated by Rotary Club Marbella-Guadalmina to DYA on 6th September]