Palma.—More than 2'000 hectares of land has been destroyed by fire in the Balearics during the first half of this year, the regional ministry for Agriculture, Environment and Territory reported yesterday.

By far the most serious happened last May in the Morna mountains in the municipality of Sant Joan de Labritja on Ibiza where 1'576 hectares of woodland were destroyed.

The second largest, with 375 hectares gone up in smoke, took place in Arta last Wednesday followed the same day by a fire in Maria de la Salud where 300 hectares were left smouldering.

Yesterday, the Guardia Civil ruled out both fires being started on purpose but said that their investigations are ongoing.
The total surface area of the Balearic Islands is 200'000 hectares meaning that the fires registered in the first half of this year have destroyed one percent of territory, well above the average for the last decade of 0.035 percent.

The widespread destruction of island territory can be put down to two main causes.

Very dry
The woodland is very dry due to low levels of spring rainfall and blazes have broken out under extremely dangerous conditions, fanned by strong winds and high temperatures.

The ministry said yesterday that it is very important that residents and visitors understand the destructive nature of forest fire and how many blazes have broken out purely due to human negligence.

The department therefore gave a reminder that during the high risk period between 1st May and 15th October, it is absolutely forbidden to light fires (for barbecues or camping, for example) in any forested area and its surrounds.

A safety border of 500 metres must be maintained, a spokesman said, adding that within such boundaries, the burning of stubble is also explicitly prohibited during this time, as is the dumping of rubbish, especially combustible material.

More locally, in the Sierra de Na Burguesa in Palma, cars aren't allowed into the area during the high risk period.
Only public service vehicles or those of property owners are allowed onto the land.
Neither are people permitted in any kind of motor vehicle, including motorcycles, to drive away from main public routes across vegetation or shrub terrain.

Safety borders
Housing developments situated in wooded areas are required to have a safety border of 50 metres which should remain free from rubbish and vegetation. The border acts as a fire barrier so that flames can't sweep into the developments, threatening public safety and property.

Individual houses in isolated areas must establish a safety border of 30 metres.
If fire breaks out, Emergency Services 112 must be notified immediately. Ironically, 2011 is the International Forest Year.

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