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Playing with fire

By Kate Benyon-Tinker, IbizaPreservation
09/07/2024

With rain in Ibiza in even shorter supply this year than normal, the risk of forest fires is increasing. Indeed, as a sign of our changing climate, the Balearic Regional Government brought Ibiza and Formentera’s fire ‘season’ forward by a month this year, placing both islands on alert from the start of April, instead of May. Ibiza’s first major outbreak occurred just a few days later, burning through 9,000 m2 of land close to Sant Jordi and forcing the evacuation of nearby homes. The island has already been placed at danger level 4, the highest possible, meaning that the risk is judged by the authorities to be immediate and extreme.

DID YOU KNOW?

• According to the WWF, 96% of wildfires in Spain are caused by humans and 23% of these are accidental or as a result of negligence. 

• The majority of outbreaks are started by discarded cigarette butts or badly tended small fires. 

• According to official figures, in 2023 more than 8 hectares of land in Ibiza were burned by fire.

• 60% of large-scale fires occur in areas where a single or dominant type of vegetation is growing, as in the case of Ibiza’s pine forests. 

• Targeted livestock grazing and the use of horses, mules or donkeys to clear forested areas are both ways of creating natural firebreaks as well as regenerating the soil. 

Ibiza’s increased fire risk can be traced back to its transition from an agrarian economy to one powered by tourism. The progressive abandonment of farmland from the 1970s onwards has changed the landscape of the island considerably; according to a recent land use study commissioned by IbizaPreservation, 39% of the island is now covered by pine forests, much of this with an undergrowth of juniper. Combine the increasingly arid conditions and the searing summer heat and you get a tinder box ready to ignite.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

• Extinguish cigarettes completely and dispose of them in suitable containers. Never drop butts on the ground nor throw them out of the car window. 

• Do not set fires or light barbecues within 500 metres of forested areas. 

• If you are a landowner, fire prevention regulations state you must clear 30 metres of land around your house and 10 metres on either side of your access road. This creates a fire break, protecting your property and giving you a clear escape route in case of emergency. 

• If you see a fire, call 112 immediately and give detailed instructions of its location. 

• Advise family and friends visiting the islands of the high risk of forest fires and these basic precautions. 

Find out more about IbizaPreservation’s work by going to ibizapreservation.org or following the foundation on Instagram, Facebook or LinkedIn @ibizapreservation or X @IBZPreservation.

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