It may sound ironic that the first place a Rural Agents fire prevention patrol goes is, precisely, a river.
But it is not by chance or strange: it is there that on a hot Friday morning in the wooded region of Berguedà, in the Catalan pre-Pyrenees, the greatest number of people gather.
The climatic emergency brings extreme temperatures that are fattening a territory where 90% of fires originate from human action.
And the more people in the forest, the more chance of fire.
The fire prevention corps is facing one of the worst summers in living memory: drought and heat waves have turned Catalonia into a constant high-voltage tinderbox where any lightning strike or cigarette butt can end decades of environmental conservation in a matter of hours .
There is not a day that from the Pyrenees to the mouth of the Ebro river there is not a warning of fire, even if it is small, in some region.
“After the covid confinement, we noticed an increase in people accessing nature.
There are several factors that are making this a particularly difficult summer”, says Josep Maria Capdevila, head of the Berguedà Area, which brings together 15 agents for the entire region: including the Cadí-Moixeró Natural Park, one of the largest in the community with
more than 40,000 hectares.
A couple of rural agents walk near the Llobregat RiverAlbert Garcia
Capdevila's first stop with his vehicle along with two patrol companions is a
(pool, in Spanish), which forms in the vicinity of the Baells reservoir (today, at 42% of its capacity).
It is the area of Pedret, in Berga.
The access road is closed to prevent people from accessing the river by car and collapsing the narrow road.
Capdevila asks all the cars he comes across where they come from.
Only neighbors and emergency services are allowed access.
Those who access the place have to do it on their own, a measure that the Department of Climate Action of the Generalitat wants to extend throughout the entire territory to avoid overcrowding in especially sensitive areas.
In this environment of the Llobregat River, Capdevila and his colleagues found some of the most typical imprudence a few days ago: bonfires, litter (the reflection of the glass can cause the fire), cigarette butts... “Of the excuses that I have come to hear I would have to write a book”, says Capdevila.
The most serious of the season that he remembers occurred on June 18, the same day as the fire in Artesa de Segre (Lleida).
While the first and most serious fire that Catalonia has suffered so far this forest season (more than 3,000 hectares burned) was taking place, a group of young people from Berguedà lit a bonfire in the Pedret area.
“The worst thing was the excuse: 'we are cold', they said.
The temperature was 38 degrees…”, remembers Capdevila.
The episode was closed with a fine, which can reach 1,000 euros,
and a message from the rural body on their social networks to make the imprudence visible.
Because the fires are not only stopped with actions in the mountains.
“When recklessness is publicized and the dangers are reminded through the press and television, it is noticeable that citizens are more aware,” explains Capdevila.
DVD 1118 08/05/22 In the image, a couple of rural agents inspect the Plana Rodona recreational barbecue area. Patrolling with rural agents from Bergueda carrying out fire prevention tasks.
Cercs, August 5, 2022 [ALBERT GARCIA]Albert Garcia
But there are also those who, despite calls for caution and prohibitions, continue to play it.
The technical committee of the Infocat plan, faced with the high risk of fires, has activated the maximum alert for a few weeks this summer and has closed access to natural parks.
But the measure has not caught on with some, who have managed to access the banned parks despite the restrictions.
Also in Montserrat, the most visited in Catalonia.
“There (in Montserrat), one day
a group of people leaving the park on a day of blocked access.
The excuse they gave us is that they had entered before the gate was closed.
It did not hang: the poster had already been hanging for a week…”, says the rural agent.
But on a rural agent day, it's not all fines.
In summer, efforts are concentrated on making sure that the immense and green gear made up of millions of trees (70% of Catalonia is forest), water wells, animals, electrical towers, roads, fields and athletes, do not spark.
And if they jump, that the territory is prepared as best as possible: full water tanks, firebreaks ready, agricultural machines ready, recreational areas with supervised barbecues...
Next week the sky gives a truce to the sun and the rains loaded with water open up in band.
It will be a quieter week for all the bodies fighting the flames.
Although there is forecast of electrical episodes.
And Capdevila remembers: "There are lightning strikes that fall asleep inside trees and after a few days... they wake up."
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