Friday, 20 October 2017

After the flames

We''ve just driven back, this time in daylight, through the area that was ablaze in the early hours of Monday morning, pictured in my previous entry. We, and our village, have been fortunate - the flames stopped a couple of miles short of us. Others, including friends of ours, have not been so lucky, losing crops which represent their livelihoods to the fire.

The mountainsides are charred black and smell, still, of smoke. It's an appalling sight and a heartbreaking one, to see what should be green and verdant beauty reduced to ashes as it is. The national news screens have been filled with images of burning forests and farms, Galicians weeping at having lost everything to the flames. Four people are dead. Portugal has had it even worse, with almost 40 people killed there. It's been a very difficult week and, understandably, despair is giving way to anger. Anger at the people who started fires deliberately - there have been arrests already. Anger too at what's perceived to be a passive, reactive rather than preventative fire policy from the Galician government. Certainly it's true that, driving back home today, freshly cut fire breaks were evident in the forests which cover the landscape - too late when the flames have already been and gone in so many places. It seems also that more than 900 of the firemen who stand ready during the long, dry summer months were stood down in very early October, despite the clear and ongoing threat.

It's simply too much of a coincidence for me that, with desperately needed rain finally coming on Monday night, more than 100 fires were active in Galicia that same day. Yes, it's entirely possible that it was the consequence of so little rain for so long, but 105 separate fires just hours before that rain finally fell, all over the region? I know nature can appear cruel but it's quite clear here that people, always capable of infinitely more cruelty, calculated as it is, have fanned nature's own flames here.

The areas around our town which burned in the fires of two years ago are now patchworks of green and black. Bushes and grasses are hiding the black scars of previous fires. Plant life recovers quickly, of course, and those areas will, if they're allowed to, recover eventually. The trees, though - they're gone. It's going to take a very long time for them to come back properly - too long for many of the residents here to live to see it.

I sincerely hope that anybody who is proven to have started any of these fires is given a very long time to think on what they've done.

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