"Forest Fire in Marbella" Personal Page by Beach_dog

Saturday July 23rd 2005

Last Saturday while driving out on a shopping trip at Puerto Banus, I noticed a large column of smoke a mile or two north in the foothills of the La Concha mountain. I drove as close as I could to a neighbouring hilltop (at right angles to the prevailing wind for safety). Armed with my camera and a large telephoto lens I was able to capture much of the next two hours of action.

The fire was first reported at about noon, this photo shows the smoke column at about 12:30, it reaches over 3000 feet (about 1000 meters) into the sky.

Another photo taken at 12:30, the fire at this point has already done a considerable amount of damage and has travelled about half a mile from its starting point. Fortunately low winds on Saturday slowed its progress. The helicopters of the emergency services were just arriving at this point.

This dramatic photo shows some farmbuildings, the building itself is not on fire, the fire is about 100m behind and to the right of the buildings, but moving in its direction. The fire services helicopters and aircraft concentrated on this area to save the buildings. I later heard that they had earlier evacuated the horses here from the stables.

The fire services consisted of 85 Firemen of San Pedro de Alcantara and Firefighting Specialists from INFOCA (the Andalucian body responsable for firefighting in forestry areas).

In addition, I counted at least four helicopters dropping bags of water onto the fire, one control helicopter directing them, and at least two fixed wing aircraft also used for dropping seawater and chemical agents into the fire.

This photo gives some impression of the scale, the mountain behind is 3000 feet in height, the smoke column matched its height.

Much of Southern Europe is suffering a drought this year, Spain, Portugal, South of France and Italy, high temperatures and no rain. Also the previous winter was very dry. Forest fires are becoming much more frequent this year, only last week, 11 volunteer firefighters lost their lives in a particularly bad fire in the Guadalajara region of Spain, started by a spark from a barbeque while the people went for a swim. The people had been warned beforehand not to light the barbeque by a local man.

Four helicopters dropped water from bags, slung underneath. The bags were being refilled from a swimming pool a few miles away. Water was being dropped at a rate of every one or two minutes and it surprised me at just how effective this was at dousing the fire.

Another method was demonstrated by this Agricultural cropdusting aircraft. It pased over the scene, dropping clouds of a red coloured chemical fire retardant.

At about 13:30 this large amphibious airplane arrived, it was an impressive sight, passing low dropping many tons of seawater over the area. After just a few passes it had made quite an impact at extinguishing the fire (notice the lack of smoke. The aircraft was flying out to sea between passes to refill, just off the coast at Puerto Banus.

By 14:30, little could be seen of the fire, a few areas of smouldering bushes. Large areas of hillside could be seen scorched black by the fire.

Work though continued for another couple of hours to ensure no pockets reignited.

I later read that 12 Hectares of land had been destroyed.

The fire had started very close the the Motorway, the most likely cause given was a discarded cigaret from a passing car. This happens so frequently along the local motorway.

On this occasion the fire services were at the scene very quickly, no serious damage took place to property, buildings or loss of life. The fire was under control very quickly, partly due to very light winds.

  • Page Updated Jul 25, 2005
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