The Minorca fire was one of the worst in the Balearics this summer. | Javier Coll


There were 105 forest and natural area fires in the Balearics up to 15 October. The number matches the average over the past ten years but the amount of land affected was less than a third of the average: 214 hectares (529 acres) rather than 663 (1,638 acres).

The number of fires was up on last year when there 74 fires that affected 105 hectares. Nevertheless, the government considers the number and the land affected to have been positive given the drought conditions.

President Armengol has congratulated personnel from the environment ministry who were involved in fire prevention and extinction. "They've done a magnificent job in difficult conditions," she said, adding that the environment "is the most precious thing we have".

Remarking on their professionalism and effectiveness, she said that prevention efforts will continue over the winter by increasing awareness. "We will continue to invest in fire prevention and extinction."

Vicenç Vidal, the environment minister, was satisfied that fires were not that significant in terms of land that was affected, though he noted that some of this land was in "very sensitive" areas. Among the most tricky fires that had to be tackled were those on the islet of Espalmador in Formentera, one in Minorca which was at night and posed a risk to people and one of the two which broke out in Sa Canova in Arta.

The head of forest management, Luis Berbiela, stressed the importance of the whole of the society involving itself with fire prevention. His department looks after the more than half a million acres of forest land in the Balearics, and its protection demands the involvement of the public. Despite the drought conditions, he observed that there had been no major fire.

He drew attention to the role of central control rapid response, saying that it doesn't leave anything to chance. If there is any smoke, the response is immediate. He highlighted the particular success in Ibiza where there were 33 fires which affected only 1.2 hectares. He warned, though, that fires could in the future be more extensive and dangerous and so emphasised that prevention is essential.

Of the more extensive fires this year, two were certainly intentional: one in Albufera, Sa Pobla, in February which affected 36 hectares and the other in August in Petra, where 45 hectares were burned. The fire which claimed over 23 hectares in Sa Canova in August is still being investigated.