The accused in court. | A. Sepúlveda


The person accused of having been responsible for starting the devastating forest fire in the Tramuntana Mountains in July 2013 told the Provincial Court in Palma on Monday that he accepted that he had been responsible.

The 58-year-old Andratx resident stated that he hadn't intended starting a fire and that he has been affected greatly by what happened. "The wind screwed everything up," he observed, adding that he had thought that coals from a barbecue were out when he had deposited them on a patch of land. The resultant fire claimed 2,347 hectares and was the worst ever in the Balearics.

The fire started on the 26th of July. The night before, the accused and two friends had a barbecue at a property on the Cami Son Jovera in Andratx. He got up at ten the following morning. The coals, he insisted, were "cold and out". He saw no sign of any smoke and therefore didn't believe there was any risk. The patch of land, he said, had been cleared of a load of weed that had been left after it was cut down along an adjacent lane.

It was his brother who first noticed the fire. The accused called the emergency services, but it took an hour for a fire crew to arrive. He and others used a blanket and buckets of water, but their efforts proved futile because of the wind.

A sergeant from the Guardia Civil's Seprona environment protection division informed the court that the fire had started in a pile of prunings. Evidence pointed to the embers having been tossed onto this pile rather than having been scattered. On the day in question, the temperature was very high (38C) and humidity was low. The location of the source of the fire made access by fire crews difficult.

Another Seprona officer said that the accused had acted unwisely. Anyone should have known not to have deposited barbecue coals on dry vegetation, although the officer added that no one would have been able to imagine that a fire could have progressed as rapidly as it did. Nevertheless, the accused should have poured water onto the barbecue remains before getting rid of them.

The prosecution service is calling for a sentence of seven and a half years and, in addition, is demanding payment of a fine and compensation totalling six million euros.