By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
THE heat wave alert will be stood down across the country today but yesterday, the Balearics was one of the hottest regions in Spain with maximum temperatures in the shade reaching 37ºC in Sa Pobla, 33ºC in Palma and 31ºC in Pollensa.

The past two days of intense heat in the Balearics had the population cranking up the air conditioning and power company Gesa Endesa registered the biggest surge ever on the Balearic grid at 9.30pm on Wednesday night.

Both the temperatures and demand for electricity will start to drop today but the big concern now, after an “unusually dry” July, is over the risk of forest fire and yesterday the Civil Protection centre in Madrid announced that the Balearics is one of a number of regions where the risk of forest fire is “extreme”.

According to the national meteorological office, July was drier than usual with an average temperature across Spain of 23.6ºC and as a result, most parts of the country, the Balearics included, are facing a grave threat of forest fire.

The Balearic anti-forest fire campaign has been operating for the past two months but, in response to yesterday's warning, fire spotters manning the network of watchtowers have been urged to be extra vigilant. The spotter plane being used is going to be spending more time in the air patrolling high risk areas of the region. Over the past few years, the Balearic authorities have managed to significantly reduce the number of forest fires by introducing highly effective prevention schemes and by increasing forestry patrols and tightening restrictions on the behaviour of campers and hikers during the summer months. Blanket awareness campaigns have also increased the public's sensitivity to the danger and all the effort has paid dividends over recent years.

However, the risks continue to be extremely high and the Guardia Civil forestry protection units and all the emergency services involved in the annual forest fire campaign have been told to step up to full and maximum alert until the “extreme” risk is reduced by the Civil Protection headquarters in Madrid.

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