Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Red sky at night ....

Yes, we have a red sky tonight, but sadly it is for all the wrong reasons. We woke up to a heavy grey sky today and this morning we even had a short thunderstorm with just a little shower, but it wasn't enough rain to clear the very sticky air. Then we sat outside for our lunch and I watched what I thought was another bank of cloud forming behind the hills to the back of us. But I soon realised that it was smoke and I knew there was another fire out on the campo. (Campo is the spanish name for all the open land. I guess it just translates as countryside). America has forest fires, Australia has bush fires, and here in Spain it is inevitable that we will get some campo fires. But we have already had too many around here and there is some talk of arson. Today's started as a reasonably small one though there was soon a line of smoke filling the sky to the south of the village. This gradually darkened until, by tea-time, Mojacar and the mountains had disappeared completely. It was one of our more breezy afternoons and the wind had blown the smoke along the valley and over the town. We heard several sirens as police, ambulance and 'bomberos' hurried to the scene. After my Spanish lesson, we drove towrds Turre and from a roadside view point we realised that the fire was getting out of control. We watched as a single helicopter with a large 'bucket' hanging below it, hovered over an agricultural reservoir to fill its bucket and then flew off to drop it on the fire, and it repeated it over and over again, but it really needed many more to help, and the fire was rapidly spreading, with the wind carrying sparks and starting new outbreaks all along the valley. You can see from the foreground in some of these photos, there is not a lot of vegetation but what there is, is tinder dry, and it catches fire very easily. Some areas quickly burn themselves out, but the rows of trees surrounding them burn long and hot, and being mostly pines, they give off sparks that start the next field burning. As we finished our tea, we could see long lines of flames licking up the side of the mountains, so we got in the car and drove to a nearby urbanisation for a better view. There were a lot of people there before us and we didn't feel so much like 'voyeurs' when we realised that most of them were spanish, so this must have been quite a big fire even for them. We watched as the flames intensified and got higher, and then died down again, only to start again somewhere else. Sometimes it crept very close to a farmhouse or villa, but we didn't see any buildings actually on fire, but there must have been some very valuable agricultural land ruined. Every now and then a new field would catch and there'd be a big sheet of flames again. We suddenly saw that there were new outbreaks a long way off so the whole area must have covered several miles, and some lines of fire had climbed right up the mountain so there were small patches of red and orange right up in the smoke clouds. We took a couple of pictures after dark and although I can't hold the camera still for a long, slow night exposure, they do give an idea of the glowing sky, and all the separate outbreaks of fire. We took a lot of pictures but I'll only put a few on here and the rest I'll put in a folder on my gallery. I have just looked out the back again and the sky is still red and I can see several small areas that are still burning. I hope the wind drops tonight so it will burn itself out, and there won't be too many people facing devastation tomorrow.

P.S. It is now Wednesday morning. When we went outside we found there was a fine layer of ash all over the patios. The main fires have stopped but it moved over the mountain and there is still one area 'active' just beyond them, This is the picture I took of it from the house. The helicopter with its water bucket is up again so it must still be quite big. The wind is more gentle today and it has completely changed direction so the smoke is now blowing inland, and we can see Mojacar again.

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