Officials in the northern Spanish region of Asturias say that unspecified arsonists were behind most of the 100 or so wildfires raging in the heavily wooded and mountainous area.

Unusually high spring temperatures and gusting winds have helped spread the fires over the past two days, with some 400 people needing to be evacuated from villages and small towns and several roads cut off for safety.

Arsonists described as ‘fire terrorists’

Asturias regional President Adrián Barbón said the “full weight of the law” would be applied to what he described as “fire terrorists”. He said the fires were started in an organised way by criminals taking advantage of the adverse weather conditions. He didn’t explain what the alleged arsonists’ motives might be. No arrests have been made.

Firefighters in the region reported early on Friday they were dealing with 116 fires in 35 areas. By mid-afternoon, the number of blazes had dropped to 97.

Sánchez expresses support

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez contacted Barbón from Beijing on Friday to express his support for the region. Speaking later at a press conference, Sánchez said that if it is proven the fires were started intentionally, the culprits would be punished.

Asturias region rural area councilor Alejandro Calvo told Spanish National Television that while the reason behind the fires is not really known, “evidently it is a wave of provoked fires that has no precedent”.

Some 267,000 hectares (666,000 acres) burned last year in Spain, making 2022 its worst year of fire destruction since 1994, government statistics say. That was three times the national average for the past decade.

According to the European Union’s Copernicus satellite observation service, Spain accounted for 35% of all burnt land in European wildfires in 2022.


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