Two firemen killed in Spanish forest blaze
Published 14/08/2010 | 05:00
A forest fire fanned by shifting winds killed two firemen in north-western Spain, officials said last night.
The blaze broke out on Thursday night near a village of some 2,000 people in Pontevedra province, part of Spain's normally cool and misty Galicia region.
Crews brought it under control by midday yesterday after the blaze charred 250 acres of forest.
Crews battling the fire through the night faced strong and constantly shifting winds that made their work harder, the regional government's rural affairs department said. The circumstances of the two men's deaths was not immediately known.
Rural affairs chief Samuel Juarez said arson was suspected as the cause of the fire, saying it was suspicious that four fires had broken out on four consecutive days in the same area.
In neighbouring Portugal, the Civil Protection Service said 33 wildfires were burning yesterday afternoon in northern forests and the country's president and prime minister returned from their holidays to visit the operational command centre.
Authorities suspect many of the Portuguese fires were started deliberately, and more than 100 detectives were working on arson investigations.
Police announced the arrest of three shepherds on suspicion of arson, raising to 15 the number of people arrested this summer.
More than 800 firefighters, 260 vehicles and 20 aircraft were put into action.
Authorities said they were most concerned about blazes in the Peneda-Geres and Serra da Estrela national parks, where some wildfires have raged for almost three days.
President Anibal Cavaco Silva suspended his holiday to visit the command centre for the firefighting effort.
"I have seen that the means at our disposal are enough to respond to needs," he said. "The Portuguese have to recognise that the situation is very difficult (and) due to to the high temperatures and low humidity it is likely that (fires) will continue to break out in coming days."
Environment Minister Dulce Passaro said: "The perception I have is that we're doing all we can and that the situation is under control."
Two firefighters also died in separate incidents in Portugal earlier this month. A woman firefighter died after being engulfed by flames in a forest, and another was killed in a road accident.
Wildfires are common in Portugal during the summer. Almost 10,000 fighters and 56 aircraft are on standby this year.