Central Catalonia blaze could have been intentional, rural officers say

Fifty homes partly or totally burned as residents able to return to affected areas

A house completely burned in River Park residential area, in El Pont de Vilomara, on July 19, 2022 (by Mar Martí, Nia Escolà and Albert Segura)
A house completely burned in River Park residential area, in El Pont de Vilomara, on July 19, 2022 (by Mar Martí, Nia Escolà and Albert Segura) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

July 19, 2022 08:08 PM

The blaze in central Catalonia which began in El Pont de Vilomara on Sunday afternoon could have been intentional, according to the Catalan rural officers.

The wildfire, which has been the most serious of the season in the country to date, affected 1,750 hectares over a day and a half until it was stabilized on Monday evening.

Around 50 homes in the River Park residential area of El Pont de Vilomara, have been somehow damaged, and 19 of them have been totally burned.

The rural officers head in the area, Jaume Torralba, explained on Tuesday that they have been able to pinpoint the two nearby locations were the fire began, and described them as "very hidden" places close to a stream, where a slope began – this made it especially easy for the flames to spread.

Torralba declined giving further details, because the incident is under a judicial secret inquiry, but emphasized the "meanness" with which the alleged author of the events had acted.

As for the other blaze declared on Monday and stabilized within hours in the same area, rural officers believe that it was a bird who was electrocuted by an electricity cable what caused the fire.

From Monday evening, residents in River Park have been allowed to return to the affected areas, and were able to see the extent of the damages.

"We have been working all of our lives, we had lived here for 48 years, and it is now all black, we are very sad to see it," said one of the locals in the area, Emília.

"From my window, I had wonderful views, and now when you look at it, it is a shame… I can't talk more because I will burst in tears," said another resident, Maria.

Àger wildfire stabilized

Another fire, the one that started in Àger, in western Catalonia's Noguera county north of Lleida, on Monday was stabilized on Tuesday morning after affecting around 50 hectares.

"'Stabilized' does not mean it's been extinguished, it means it's not spreading," Bernat Solé, a Catalan government official in Lleida, said. "Firefighters are still working on it."

16 deaths due to heatwave

The ongoing heatwave has contributed to the recent wildfires. The Catalan government's spokesperson, Patrícia Plaja, said on Tuesday, after the weekly cabinet meeting, that 16 people have died as a result of the exceptional weather conditions. 

Since the heatwave began, there have been 16 deaths that can be attributed to or are likely related to temperature changes," she said.