What you can do to prevent forest fires

With record high temperatures, little rain and an abundance of dry vegetation, Ibiza and Formentera face an extreme risk of forest fires during the summer months.

Forest fires can have a serious impact on our natural spaces, wildlife, businesses and houses. The devastating fires in 2011 saw thousands of hectares of forest destroyed and residents and tourists evacuated.

Too often fires are caused by careless behaviour. Cigarette butts thrown from car windows, poorly tended small fires and faulty electrical installations and equipment are some of the usual suspects.

Because of the high risk, from May until October all fires are prohibited on farm land, in mountain areas and within 500 metres of a forest. Special permission must be obtained for fires during this period from the Agentes Medio Ambientales (AMAs).

Clearing Land

If you live in a forested area, it’s important to create gaps in vegetation so fires can’t spread.

Fire prevention regulations state there must be a clear space of 30 metres around your home. Access ways or “caminos” also need to be cleared by 10 metres either side. This not only creates a fire break but allows for emergency services to get to properties and provides you with a safe exit route.

Before you start clearing land you need to get permission. To do this, call AMAs on  971 176 677. They will carry out a free assessment of your property and provide you with the necessary permissions.

If you need help to clear your land there are local companies you can contact.

Ingenia Ambient & Natura will remove trees and clear any scrub. Depending on the size of your property, they will carry out the work at no cost to the landowner. Better still, they can take care of the necessary permissions and paperwork. Ingenia also chip the wood and use it as a sustainable biomass fuel for boilers – so it’s a win/win for the environment.

This Forest Fire Prevention Guide, published by the Balearic Government, has information on regulations and important advice on prevention in English, Spanish and German.

Fire Dos and Don’ts

  • Don’t smoke but if you do, make sure you extinguish the cigarette completely and never throw butts out of car windows (but we know you’d never do that). Also be careful where you drop ash
  • Do tell visiting friends and family about the high risk of fire on the islands
  • Don’t let off fireworks – your cats and dogs will also appreciate it
  • Do regularly check and maintain electrical equipment to ensure it’s not faulty
  • Do take care when barbequing and dispose of any ash properly. Ashes can hold enough heat to start fires and hot coals can destroy more than just your sausages
  • Do invest in firefighting equipment if you live in a forested area
  • Do avoid using power tools and electrical equipment outside on hot, windy, dry days – sparks can easily ignite vegetation
  • Do call 112 if you see fire or smoke and provide as much information as possible on the location.

We all need to be aware of the risks and what we can do to prevent forest fires.