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At the beginning of this week a fire broke out in the campo at the edge of the village. This time it broke out in the valley bottom near to houses, and so was more worrying than our previous two fires this year. Fortunately, it was also quite close to the municipal, outdoor swimming pool, so the smaller of the two helicopters dealing with the fire was able to get water from there, which did rather interfere with holiday-makers’ ability to enjoy a swim.
Fortunately, too, the vegetation in that area is a mixture of matorral (short, coarse grasses, thyme, rosemary and other woody shrubs), fruit trees, olive trees and almond trees, which are slow to ignite. Not so in the area of the western Costa del Sol behind Marbella where fire broke out on Thursday evening, growing and spreading rapidly to destroy 1.500 hectares (3,700 acres) and several houses before being brought under control. At least one person died, around hal a dozen needed hospital treatment and more than 5,000 people had to flee their homes. Unlike our own locality, the mountain is heavily forested with pine and eucalyptus, both highly resinous and hence swift to ignite. These trees burn fiercely and with the help of a strong breeze, throw off huge numbers of burning embers which in turn start fresh fires.
The photographs and video footage which I saw online showed something truly horrendous. In 1975 a fire raged through the mountains behind Frigiliana. At that time, our mountains, too, were heavily populated with pine trees, all of which were burned to the ground, leaving the whole sierra denuded. That must have been even more terrifying; in those days communications were poor, access to the sierras was by rough, unsurfaced drove roads, and there were no helicopters to come to the rescue with their canvas buckets.