Staff Reporter
ABOUT four percent of forest fires which have broken out in the Balearics in recent years, have been due to “unknown causes”.
A study presented by the World Wildlife Foundation/Adena organisation yesterday, claims that statistics for fires in this category between 1998 and 2002, bear one of the lowest rates in Spain.

The report, nevertheless, reveals that practically half of the fires which were deliberately started (23 of the 48) were for unknown reasons. It recommends that “the reasons for outbreak of fires on the Islands should be clarified; with an intensified effort, all of them could be labelled under one category or another”.

The report, presented yesterday, points to the Balearics, along with La Rioja, Aragon and Catalonia, as being the most dedicated to analysing the origin of fires which devastate their forested mountain areas. And so, in the Balearics, the annual average of fires which have occurred for unknown reasons stands at 28, the second lowest figure in Spain, ceding first place only to La Rioja (23).

In the report, which analyses according to cause, the number of incendiaries registered in the Islands (lightning, negligence, arson, unknown, “copy cat” cases, and other causes), Adena observes an ongoing reduction in the number of fires in the Balearics, especially those due to negligence.

It similarly declares that an important reduction has been registered in incendiaries caused by agricultural fires which are used by farmers to burn over the stubble of harvested fields.

Details showed that fires started as a result of careless smokers were in fact the most numerous within their category.
Fires started for other causes, such as the “unknown” factor or arson, showed little variation, although a slight reduction in each category was noted.

In contrast, in Spain, 70 percent of the causes of forest fires remain unknown, in spite of the fact that the identification of motives are “fundamental” to identify, prosecute and punish the guilty, said Raquel Gómez from Adena, who presented the study.

In fact, only 1 percent of the total number of forest fire incidents result in an arrest, explained the ecological organisation, in spite of the fact that 96 percent are caused by man. Adena's report detects that the majority of Spain's regions, instead of allocating funds to research and rooting out the socioeconomic causes of arson, largely invest their budgets in high-profile extinction equipment, because politically, “it is more eye-catching”.

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