The human hand, as was suspected from the first moment, is behind the fire that has devastated more than 3,500 hectares in Sierra Bermeja, in Malaga. The investigation carried out by the Forest Fire Investigation Brigade (BIIF), dependent on the Andalusian Government, has concluded that the flames had a “reckless origin” and that it is a consequence of the work carried out with heavy machinery on a farm. It is a task carried out “in inappropriate circumstances for non-existent conditions”, according to Fernando Benítez, delegated prosecutor for the Environment in the province of Malaga. The fire, which was stabilized on Friday but has not yet been controlled, also caused injuries to three firefighters -already discharged- and forced the eviction of some 3,000 people from the urban area of Benahavís and from different nearby luxury developments.
The agents of the Environment visited the area where the fire had originated on Monday, once the weather conditions have given a small respite for their visit. They confirmed the first hypotheses, which attributed the start of the fire to imprudence. According to the investigators, the cause is related to the work with heavy machinery that was being carried out last week in the La Resinera area, a farm of more than 6,500 hectares that was owned by Muanmar el Gaddafi and that is located in the municipal terms of Pujerra, Júzcar and Benahavís. This has also been corroborated by the members of the Nature Protection Service (Seprona) of the Civil Guard, who have taken statements from the people who did these tasks on the wooded land on a day when the weather did not recommend it. For this reason, the agents try to find out if there was any imprudence in these works. And all the more so when last Wednesday there were gusts of onshore wind – hot air from the north of the province that heats up due to its contact with the ground – of up to 40 kilometers per hour and temperatures that exceeded 30 degrees.
The Environment Prosecutor’s Office has also wanted to emphasize that this fire has “neither by its nature nor by its authorship” any relationship with the one that occurred in the same area last year and that ended with more than 10,000 hectares burned and the death of a fireman. The investigation, in this case, is still active and under summary secrecy “having spared no effort or resources by the Seprona Investigation Team,” according to Benítez. “It was already warned at the beginning that it was an extremely complex investigation as it was an intentional fire in which the author took all kinds of precautions to avoid being discovered”, clarified the Environment Prosecutor.
That fire started in two simultaneous sources, according to the investigation, by means of a lighter with which a dry pineapple was lit on little piles of leaves. The State Attorney General’s Office then pointed out the “intentional ethology” of the fire and the Andalusian Government itself confirmed it. “There are quite clear indications,” said the president, Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla, who promised to “hunt down” the perpetrators. “If there is an arsonist or two, we are going to go after him,” he stressed, later promising aid and investment to recover the area. Works that, at the moment, are 30% complete while no one affected has yet received even one euro to compensate for their losses due to the fire.
Meanwhile, members of the Infoca (Forest Fire Extinguishing Service plan) continue this Tuesday in Sierra Bermeja to consider the fire under control. 62 firefighters are still in the area to secure the perimeter around the burned area. A complex, slow and hard task “since the existing scrub is dense and large”, as reported by Infoca on its Twitter account. The works are focusing, like those on Monday, on the eastern part of the farm devastated by the flames. At that point there is a denser wooded space and for this reason the fear that the fire can reproduce is greater. Of course, despite the weather conditions still not helping (with high temperatures, strong wind and low relative humidity), at the moment there is no more smoke or areas with active flames. More than 80% of the affected land is already fenced off. Two of the three firefighters injured during the extinction work are already in his house, where he is recovering from his burns, while the third has returned to his job.
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