Two western Catalonia wildfires still active as heatwave peaks

Blazes in Corbera d'Ebre, Castellar de la Ribera and Sallent stabilized, while firefighters expect to control Solsonès fire before the night

Some olive trees burned down in Corbera d'Ebre on June 17, 2022 (by Mar Rovira)
Some olive trees burned down in Corbera d'Ebre on June 17, 2022 (by Mar Rovira) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

June 17, 2022 08:11 PM

Two wildfires in western Catalonia were still active on Friday evening, including the one in Artesa de Segre (Noguera county), the first one that broke out this week and that has already affected 2,000 hectares, and also the one in Lladurs (Solsonès county), which has already affected 50 hectares.

According to Agents Rurals, Catalan rural officers, Artesa de Segre's blaze affected 1,470 hectares, which is not the same as has burned.  

Authorities are particularly concerned by the Lladurs fire because it has a very long right flank is very long and an unstable perimeter. However, Bombers, Catalonia's firefighters, expect to have the blaze stabilized late on Friday evening. 

Until Friday evening, the wildfire in the Solsonès county had burned 43.83 hectares. However, it could still affect 50,000 hectares.

"We are at the worst moment. We are watching out for fires that could possibly start up again in order to extinguish them as soon as possible as conditions are extremely critical and when fires reignite they can be very intense," Eduard Martínez, the head of the Solsonès fires brigade, said.

On Thursday firefighters worried that if it could be controlled any time soon, it could end up spreading over "tens of thousands of hectares."

Friday most 'complicated' day 

Authorities had expected Friday to be the most "complicated" day of the week since the ongoing heatwave peaked with high temperatures recorded of almost 44ºC.

Indeed, the overwhelming majority of the country has a high risk of wildfires for Friday, as established by rural officers.

According to their daily map, published on Friday morning, most of the Catalan counties face a level 2 risk out of 3, while a large area in the west is facing 'extreme risk,' with some sections of the Montsec mountain range with restricted entry.

Some blazes stabilized overnight

Firefighters worked overnight, and early morning on Friday they announced that several blazes had been stabilized.

This includes the one in Corbera d'Ebre, in the Ebre river delta region, after burning around 300 hectares, and the one in Castellar de la Ribera (Solsonès county), which had burned 323 hectares as of Friday morning. This blaze is very close to the one in Lladurs, the most concerning one.

Figures released by Agents Rurals on Friday evening stated that the Corbera d'Ebre fire had affected 397.39 hectares, while the one in Castellar de Ribera was 329.54 ha. The smallest wildfire at the time was the one in Sallent, in central Catalonia, still burning but already stabilized, which had affected 21.4 hectares. 

This last one broke out on Thursday evening, but it was under control by Friday morning, as were several other minor blazes in Solsonès and the Pyrenees.

Friday morning, a new blaze started in Peramola, in the northern county of Alt Urgell. Firefighters soon stabilized the fire and focused their resources on other small wildfires around. 

Around 400 firefighters are working on putting out wildfires, with 120 vehicles used. Around a hundred of emergency military units and 21 aerial vehicles are also being used across Catalonia.

Lack of firefighters

Interior minister Joan Ignasi Elena admitted on Friday that Catalonia is lacking firefighters and that they are being hired.

Talking to Catalunya Ràdio station, he said his office had to "prioritize" some wildfires over others, and that he understands the complaints of some towns such as Castellar de la Ribera. Yet, he added that after talking to mayors involved, they understood the situation.

According to Elena, it is the first time in several years that so many blazes coincide in the same week.

Even some aerial firefighting units had been moved around the territory. 

"Aerial firefighting units have been deployed to where they were deemed the most necessary," Bernat Solé, the Catalan government delegate in Lleida, said to the media.