Staff Reporter
THE 64 forest fires which have swept across the Balearic Islands between January and July this year, have resulted in the destruction of a total of 130 hectares.

Of this figure, 2 were due to natural causes, 17 to negligence and 45 to unknown motives.
Two people in the region have been detained by police in relation to the fires. A person had to be treated for injuries following the outbreak of one of the fires.

According to the Guardia Civil, Galicia was the region in which most forest fires broke out between January and July of 2004, with a total of 524, although the greatest damage to surface areas occurred in Andalucia and Extremadura, with 32'143 and 15'696 hectares respectively.

The Nature Protection branch of the Guardia Civil (IBANAT) have issued a report on the forest fires, which, they warn, only refers to blazes which were reported to, and attended by, the Guardia Civil. It confirms that after Andalucia and Extremadura, most hectares were destroyed in Galicia (9'628), followed by Castilla y Leon (6'147), Castilla-La Mancha (2'098) and Madrid (1'659).

At the other end of the scale, the regions which suffered least burnt territory were La Rioja (26 hectares), Cantabria (42), Murcia (61) and Catalonia (79).

In terms of sheer numbers of blazes, Galicia heads the list with 524, followed by Andalucia with 433; Castilla y Leon (354); Castilla-La Mancha (224); and Extremadura (179). La Rioja was the area with least forest fires (6), followed by Cantabria (8) and the self-governing city of Ceuta in North Africa (2).

Four people died and 25 were injured in the 2'368 fires reported to the Guardia Civil. Natural causes are believed to have started 202 of this total, 265 were the result of accidents, 431 came about through negligence, 195 were started intentionally resulting in the arrest of 122 people, but in 1'278 cases the cause of the blaze remains unknown.

Of the four people who died, two lost their lives in Andalucia, one in Castilla-La Mancha and the fourth in Galicia.
The greatest number of injured was also registered in Andalucia (6), followed by the Canary Islands (5), Galicia (4), Castilla y Leon (3), Extremadura and Madrid (2 in both cases) and 1 each in Aragon, Baleares and Castilla-La Mancha.

With regard to the detainees, the greatest number of arrests were made in Galicia (47), followed by Andalucia (35). Both these communities registered the highest rate of fires started intentionally: 87 in Galicia and 34 in Andalucia.

Amongst the accidental causes, the report lists fires started by railway line activity, electric supply lines, motors and machines, military manoeuvres and “others”. The negligence sector includes traditional agricultural land burning, rubbish incineration, forest works, bonfires, smokers, children and “others”.

Apart from pyromania and the work of extremists, fires were started deliberately for reasons of vengeance, hunting interests, economic interests, property speculation, and the theft of wood.

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