'Foc Off': Catalonia launches drought and forest fire awareness campaigns

Government issues call to reduce water consumption "at all levels"

Minister Teresa Jordà and Joan Ignasi Elena at the launch of the 'Foc Off' forest fire awareness campaign
Minister Teresa Jordà and Joan Ignasi Elena at the launch of the 'Foc Off' forest fire awareness campaign / Blanca Blay
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

June 6, 2023 06:18 PM

December 9, 2023 12:44 PM

Government awareness campaigns don't always lodge themselves in the public imagination, no matter how worthy the cause. 

But the name of Catalonia's drive to educate citizens on how to prevent forest fires this summer is certainly memorable. 

'Foc Off' – foc being the Catalan word for fire – was launched on June 1 by the interior and climate action ministers with the aim of highlighting the need to prevent fires caused by human activity. 

"Nine out of ten fires are caused by human actions," explained Joan Ignasi Elena, interior minister, at the campaign launch on Thursday. There is a "very high" risk of fires, he warned. "The reality is tough." 

The campaign video features young people, "as they are the generation most aware of the climate emergency," Elean said. 

The video warns of the dangers of setting off firecrackers or using machinery in high-risk areas and states: "this summer, more than any other, recklessness 'Foc Off.'" 

According to data from the Agents Rurals (Rural Agents), human activity was a factor in 96% of forest fires so far in 2023 (whether due to negligence, accidents or intentional fires), while only 4% of fires were a result of natural causes. 

Minister of Climate Action, Teresa Jordà Roura, explained that there was an elevated risk of forest fires due to the climate emergency and "persistent and extremely severe" drought. 

Last year was the driest on record since 1950 and rainfall was below average for 32 months running, until May, Jordà said. 

So far in 2023, firefighters have tackled 2,766 vegetation fires (in agricultural, woodland and urban settings), 11% more than in 2022 (2,484 fires) and 35% more than two years ago (2,038 fires). 

The number of hectares affected – up to May 28 – is also the highest in the last ten years: 875 hectares. Only in 2012 were there more fires recorded and a greater area affected. 

Call to reduce water consumption 

On Tuesday, Catalonia launched another awareness campaign, this one highlighting the ongoing drought and calling for water consumption to be reduced "at all levels." 

With the slogan 'Water does not fall from the sky. Saving it is everyone's business,' the government hopes to appeal to citizens to act responsibly and cut down on water use. 

Spokesperson Patrícia Plaja said that the recent rainfall was "welcome" but "insufficient." 

"Water consumption levels are not decreasing in homes, industry, or businesses as we would have hoped and this means that despite the rain," says government spokesperson, Patrícia Plaja / Catalan News

Explaining that levels of domestic and industrial consumption are not being reduced, and that the government's forecasts included a more marked reduction, Plaja warned that if water use does not fall and it does not rain, the government's measures "will not be sufficient" to stop the slide into a state of emergency at the end of summer or beginning of autumn. 

The campaign aims to remind people that the water being used right now does not come from rainfall alone, because "there wouldn't be enough," but that it is reused.