Photo by: FranDuca, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
03 Apr 2023

Arson wildfires 2023 in northern Spain described as a terrorist attack


Over 100 arson fires raged in northern Spain on Friday, according to authorities. 91 of them were in the province of Asturias near the Bay of Biscay, and the rest in the neighboring region of Cantabria. At most, there were 160 fires in the two regions.

"We are facing something we have never seen before. It is a real terror attack, it is coordinated actions," tweeted Adrián Barbón, the regional president of Asturias, on Friday.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated and several roads have been closed due to the fires.

Fires that have been ongoing for a week in the country's eastern parts are now under control, according to the rescue service.

A prolonged drought prevails in Spain after three years of insufficient rainfall.

Reuters news bureau wrote on March 30 that more than 100 wildfires broke out in Spain's northern Asturias region on Thursday, most of them started on purpose by arsonists and others, authorities said, because temperatures soared to record highs during the latter part of March. 


Temperatures above 25 C - Spanish fire season has started two months early

A week earlier, another wildfire had started in woodlands in the eastern Valencia region and yet another that has burned  through 1,100 hectares of land in Galicia in the northwest. 

In the area of Asturias, the regional leader Adrian Barbon described the man made fires as started with deliberate, criminal intent:

"Asturias does not burn. THEY BURN IT. And those responsible are those who set fire to our forests. They are criminals, delinquents, and they will be prosecuted and treated as such," Adrian Barbon wrote on Twitter.

The Spanish government is now worried about more fires this year after an unusually dry winter.

Spain registered its hottest on record March 29, according to the meteorological agency AEMET.


Dry conditions, strong winds and high temperatures

Crisis24.garda.com wrote on March 30th that strong winds and high temperatures across northwestern Spain were fanning the fires:

"The largest fire is burning in Baleira Municipality in Galicia's Lugo Province. The fire began late March 28 near the village of Cubilledo and has grown to around 1,100 hectares (2,718 acres). Authorities have a level two (out of four) emergency, and more than 43 personnel are on-site battling the blaze".


NASA photograph of forest fires in Spain from March 27, 2023
NASA: When an astronaut on the International Space Station took this photograph of the blaze on March 27, a thick plume of smoke streamed southeast toward the Mediterranean Sea. The fire forced more than 1,800 people to evacuate, according to Agence France-Presse. Dozens of aircraft and hundreds of firefighters have been deployed to fight the fire, which has charred at least 4,300 hectares (10,500 acres).
Although satellite imagery indicates the fire has died down considerably, AEMET listed the risk of fire in the coming days as extreme.

Asturia calls arson "fire terrorists"

More than 500 personnel have been involved in firefighting operations across Asturias as of March 30, according to Crisis24.garda.com. Authorities in Asturias Autonomous Communities reported more than 100 active forest fires in the region as of March 30.

The majority  of the fires are believed to have been started by arsonists and the region's leader called them  "fire terrorists". 

"THEY ARE BURNING OUR ASTURIAS. We are dealing with real terrorists who are endangering lives, towns and cities," the head of the regional government Adrian Barbon said on Twitter.

According to an article on Reuters on March 31, intentional fires have previously often been linked to farming advocates seeking to create more land for cattle. In 2017, Asturias revoked a law restricting cattle from grazing in fire-damaged forest areas.


Late march is a very early fire season start for Spain

According to NASA, In Spain, fires typically become severe in June as summer heat arrives. However in 2023, the fire season started early with an intense forest fire that started in the eastern Castellon province in late March:

"Poor rainfall over the past three years had already primed forests in the province to burn, and warm, windy weather worsened the situation after the blaze ignited near Villanueva de Viver on March 23, 2023. Temperatures were above 25 Celsius (77 Fahrenheit) when the fire broke out, according to Spain’s State Meteorological Agency (AEMET). At times, winds of up to 70 kilometers (44 miles) fanned the flames".



Photo Credit (Cover photo above): The forest fire in Barranco Blanco, Spain, 2012. Wikipedia Commons Licence. 

Photo by: FranDuca, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons