By Chris Buscombe

PALMA
THE Balearics has this year seen a decrease in the number of forest fires with 251 hectares less than the average for the previous decade being burnt.

Only 86 hectares have been destroyed this year, while the average for the last ten years on the islands has been 337 hectares. Six forest fires have been officially registered this year, in comparison to an average of seventeen in recent years, while whereas 0.17% of all forestry on the islands has normally suffered from the effects of fires, only 0.4% has been burnt this year.

In addition, this year has not encountered any particularly large fires, which can sometimes burn up to and more than 500 hectares. 1999 was worst hit by forest fires in recent years, having witnessed the burning of 1'366 hectares. In contrast, 2002 saw only 53 hectares severely damaged as a result of fires.

Majorca is the island which has been most affected by fires this year, having been home to 80 of the 86 hectares burnt throughout the four islands. Formentera, on the other hand, has had only 0.19 hectares burnt, Minorca 1.31 and Ibiza 4.61.

In addition to the smaller area of scrubland affected by fires, this year, none of the region's forests have been hit by forest fire - the first time for ten years such a figure has occurred.

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