Thursday, January 09, 2014

Earth, wind and fire

Update 10.1.14 20 fires in one day - seven of them in Ribadesella

This past week has seen extensive damage around Asturias from violent gusts of winds. Many of the old cider apple orchards have suffered with trees uprooted or with trunks and branches snapped with the force of 90 kph gusts. Living so near the coast we often get weather fronts that come in from the Atlantic Ocean and travel across the Bay of Biscay that batter the coast of northern Spain as they eventually calm and fade. This time the winds came from the south bringing with them balmy temperatures, often as high as 20c in the early evening and throughout the night.

Thankfully we had little damage apart from a few plant pots tossed around, one or two broken branches on trees and shrubs and garden furniture strewn across the plot. We have learnt from past experience to batten down the hatches and move anything vulnerable when we can feel the winds gathering pace.

Our last blog entry featured Luis' new mosaic and a new composition by me both titled Prometheus. For those of you who are familiar with his story you will know he was the Titan that stole the fire from the gods and brought it to earth. In retrospect it seems somewhat pertinent to mention Prometheus as this week we have seen a proliferation of deliberate fires across Asturias.

We understand that the fires are started by farmers to clear gorse and shrub in an effort to regenerate grazing for stock. As far as we know these uncontrolled fires are illegal. Licenses are issued here in Asturias for controlled fires and we have a license to burn here at La Pasera. If our garden fires spread and resulted in emergency services to be called, without it, we would be responsible for costs which can escalate into many thousands of euros.

Many pastures on lowlands have been set on light and up to a point, we can see the sense in this however, many mountains have also been set alight. This is often done when strong winds are expected as it helps the fire spread. Last night around 7.30pm I could smell smoke and knew that locally, fires were happening. Sure enough, half an hour later the glow of flames lit the sky as the winds gathered pace. The mountain, Sierra de Cueva Negra, that overlooks our coastal plain was well and truly on fire, on both aspects, it burned fierce. Luis called the emergency services who were already aware of it and were monitoring its spread. It burned throughout the night.

This morning it is a sorry sight with the Bomberos (firefighters) dousing the fire and their helicopters flying over our house to the sea to fill their water carriers. Such a terrific and unnecessary cost in such times.

It seems senseless to us that these fires are started and that no-one is prosecuted for them. The emergency services do not come cheap, it is dangerous and the very act of fire on gorse seed actually promotes more vigorous growth.

 No doubt the earth will re-generate, grasses will grow and new gorse will flourish. The beautiful oaks and wooded slopes however will take much longer to grow again. As one local newspaper described these actions this week, it is truly lamentable.

Update: 12.1.14 - You can see the extent of the fire, 2 km of mountain burnt.


  1. Galicia has a terrible problem with intentional fires, as you probably know. It makes me furious that there are idiots running around who can cause such damage to forested areas.

    I´m so sorry it happens in Asturias too, ¨accidentally´ or otherwise.

    1. There is an outcry locally and demonstrations planned led by the environmentalists.

  2. Anonymous10:22 pm

    sorry you guys have to look up to the black hills now.
    same shenanigans over here and no one before the courts ever.
    We get the fires usually when it is dry in March and April, could be February too, burning down the bogs and the forestry plantations for good measure.
    The odd time they overdo it and the bog catches fire.
    And yes, mostly it is a 'farmer', seldom an arsonist out for kicks

    ah well,


    1. There was a large protest on Sunday but nothing will change - thankfully the mountain will green-up again soon. Sorry you have the same problems.


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