Climate change is leading to wildfires in Spain very rarely seen during this time of year.
That’s according to new government figures, revealing that last year 267,000 hectares of land burned last year – three times the national average over the last decade and the worst year for destruction since 1994.
EU satellite data backed this up, revealing that Spain alone was where 35% of all burned land from wildfires occurred in Europe in 2022.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said: “Unfortunately, over the last few years these fires are becoming normal. What is not so normal is that we see them in March. This has a lot to do with the climate emergency that the world is facing.”
A recent forest fire in the Eastern Spanish village of Villanueva de Viver epitomised this, with 1,400 people being forced to flee their homes and 4,600 hectares of ecological forest destroyed.
Local firefighter Manuel Rubio spoke with The Associated Press, revealing: “I was expecting a fire like the ones we normally see in March, which can consume 100, 200 hectares, not the more than 4,300 hectares that this one has burned. We are dealing with weather conditions appropriate for the summer and have a fire that is behaving like a summertime fire.”
Drier weather is becoming the norm in the area, with just 20 millimetres of rain falling in the last winter, when the average sits close to 100 millimetres.
The Met Office warned in a recent report that the heatwave witnessed last year across Europe is set to return in 2023 – which could see wildfires become all too common during the summer months.
Juli Pausas from the Spanish National Research Council added: “We have known for a long time that the climate is changing and we have known that this would have consequences, including more wildfires, yet we haven’t done enough to stop it.”