Four firemen die fighting a fire in Tarragona
A forest fire which yesterday at midday appeared under control has claimed the lives of four firemen who were involved in the efforts to extinguish it. Another 2 firemen were also seriously injured in the attempt to put out the fire.
The tragedy occurred in the Ports de Tortosa-Beseit National Park near Horta de Sant Joan (Tarragona). The firemen who died were taken by surprise in an area which was difficult to reach when a sudden change in the direction of the wind reactivated flames.
The 2 injured firemen were taken to the Vall d’Hebron hospital in Barcelona, where they are in a very serious condition suffering from second and third degree burns to 75% and 50% of their bodies.
According to one fireman who had witnessed events the fire which had appeared to be under control was affected by a brusque change in the direction of the wind which began to blow with much more force.
The fireman who was flying above the area in a helicopter almost lost control of it when strong gusts of wind changed direction.
Last night the fire continued out of control and was approaching the urban centre of Horta de Sant Joan (1,200 inhabitants). Yesterday afternoon some people near the area of the fire were evacuated from their homes and more preparations were made to evacuate the whole town if it became necessary.
The mayor of the town, Àngel Ferràs, speaking from the centre of operations established in the sports centre said that the situation was not at all clear. Following the news of the deaths of the firemen he added that if the wind did not die down the situation would get much worse.
Ferrás also criticised the fire service’s efforts to extinguish the fire.
A number of inhabitants from the area also joined him in criticising the fire service saying that they should have accepted help from residents.
The efforts to put out the fire involved at least 60 vehicles and 12 helicopters and planes in collaboration with the Aragon fire service. The operation to extinguish the fire was suspended when visibility became too poor
Yesterday morning the small fire which had started on Monday night appeared to be under control with just 50 hectares of burnt land in the National Park. However from midday onwards when the wind picked up it spread rapidly and impeded efforts to bring it back under control. The fire service has said that it was very unlucky with the meteorological conditions. It is now estimated that up to 800 hectares of land have been burnt.
The Minister of Defence, Carme Chacón, and the Minister for the Environment, Elena Espinosa, both visited Horta de Sant Joan.
Chacón said that the government would do all it could to help in the efforts to extinguish the fire.
So far this Summer forest fires have claimed 7 lives including the 4 firemen who were killed yesterday.