From: Harold Heckle, Associated Press
Published August 9, 2006 12:00 AM

More Than 100 Forest Fires Rage in Northwest Spain

MADRID, Spain — Emergency services were fighting 110 forest fires on Wednesday in wooded areas of northwest Spain, many started deliberately, officials said.

The fires, which have charred around 10,000 hectares (24,710 acres) of forest and scrubland, have occurred mainly between the port city of Vigo and tourist center Santiago de Compostella, an area known for its fjord-like sea inlets.

Five people have been arrested on suspicion of having started fires, regional prosecutor Alvaro Garcia Ortiz said. One of the five has been released on bail.

Firefighters had managed to bring 49 fires under control, but high winds and very dry conditions were fanning another 62 blazes, said spokeswoman Iria Mendez.

Italy's civil protection said it would dispatch two Canadair planes and a team of technicians to help fight forest fires in Spain.

The CL415 planes, capable of drenching a blaze with more than 6,000 liters of water or flame-retardant liquid, would leave for Spain Wednesday morning from Rome's Ciampino airport, the civil protection said in a statement.

The planes were made available following a request by Spain's civil protection and as part of Europe-wide agreements for mutual assistance, the statement said.

Two wildfires were burning in Girona, on the other side of Spain in the northeast region of Catalonia, where firefighters had deployed eight vehicles.

Neighboring Portugal, which had originally offered help to Spain, had to redeploy its firefighting forces to outbreaks within its own borders, regional authorities in Galicia said.

Forest fires in Spain and other Mediterranean countries char hundreds of thousands of acres (hectares) of land every year. Spain's national and regional governments agreed to step up vigilance after 17 people died in fires last summer.

The number of highly destructive fires -- ones that have burned more than 2.5 acres (1 hectare) -- has dropped from more than 6,200 in 2005 to under 3,000 in 2006 for the January-July period, according to Environment Ministry figures. Fires charred 88,635 acres (35,870 hectares), down from 233,370 acres (94,450 hectares) in 2005, the ministry added.

Authorities credit preventive measures for the drop, including bans on barbecues in the countryside in dry regions, and more effective campaigns to clear roadside garbage and fallen leaves and branches in forests.

Source: Associataed Press

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