Ninety per cent of the fires reported in the Balearics this year have been the results of arson, according to the director general of Biodiversity, José Manuel Gomez. Gomez explained yesterday that 36 of the 40 fires have either been caused intentionally or by human error. The fire services, forestry protection units and the government are gearing up for the summer and the annual forest fire campaign and yesterday the Balearic Environment Minister, Margalida Rossello, called on the public to telephone the 112 emergency line if and whenever they spot a forest fire. With the drought continuing and the serious lack of rain this year, the government has issued a warning to anybody planning on going up in to the mountains or forests to be extremely careful this summer. The 40 fires reported this year have destroyed 105 hectares of land with the worst fire to date breaking out in Ibiza on Wednesday and claiming 60 hectares. The situation is so severe, with the region facing a huge threat of forest fires, that Rossello announced yesterday that the Fire Watch and Fighting Plan 2000, will be brought into effect for the whole year, not just the summer. In order to make the operation more effective, the budget has been doubled to 500 million pesetas and a total of 70 fire fighting professionals, spread across ten fire brigades, will be on full alert. The 70 firemen will also be backed up by 20 experts in fire prevention, a team of 50 “spotters” stationed in the network of watch towers and 40 forestry wardens. This year's plan involved the largest amount of manpower, equipment and finance ever assembled in the battle against forest fires and there are human and technical resources on standby on the mainland to assist the Balearic fire services in the case of a major emergency.


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