Palma.—The season of high risk of fire came to an end this year in the Balearics with 157 fires (67 of them started intentionally) going down on record and a damage toll of 2'478.83 hectares of land burned to a crisp. The figures are even worse than those registered in 1994 when 2'454.2 hectares of land were lost to fire.

Biel Company, the regional Minister for Agriculture, Environment and Territory was reporting yesterday on the number of forest fires this year, and the extent of their damage. He said that on 31st October, the worst high risk season in 17 years had come to an end.

Results showed that 43 percent of the 157 fires in the Balearics this year had been started by arsonists, whilst 38 percent had been due to negligence or accident, 6 percent to natural causes and 3 percent to “other” reasons. The origin of 2 percent of the fires remains unknown and 8 percent are still being investigated.

Company said he had complete confidence in his ministerial team and had ruled out that any of the arsonists were ex forestry commissioners, as had been suggested in recent months by some newspapers.

According to the Minister, those who had started the fires were “people with problems”. For that reason, said Company, the number of look-out posts in areas where there was a high risk of fire had been stepped up.

Of the 2'478.83 hectares which were burned this year, 1'670.08 were destroyed on Ibiza, 805.81 on Majorca, 1.67 hectares on Minorca but none on Formentera.

Company praised the “extraordinary” efficiency of the organisations charged with control and extinction of the forest fires. He said that thanks to their commitment and responsibility, the damage toll was much less than it otherwise might have been. Calculations said that without such professional fire fighting teams, the area of land destroyed could have been as much as 10'000 hectares.

The fire on Serra de Morna which started on 25th May this year and left 1'576 hectares in ruins, said the Minister, was just such an example. He reported that in 20 minutes, special fire fighting aircraft and land brigades had arrived, reducing the area of damage from a potential loss of 3'225 hectares.


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