Summer has arrived and the forest fires high risk season on Gran Canaria, which means in practice until September 30, special care must be taken in all rural and forest areas, with the burning of agricultural waste totally prohibited, while any use of fireworks, barbecues and machinery that generates sparks is limited and subject to conditions.
Cabildo de Gran Canaria Councillor for the Environment, Inés Jiménez, points out that most of the forest fires declared on this island have their origins in human negligence, hence the importance of “extreme precautions and avoiding any activity that may involve risk for our mountains”, she said in a statement. “The best friend of fires, in addition to forest fuel and weather conditions, is false confidence, the belief that everything is under control and that what is being done is known about, despite the warnings,” Jiménez made clear.
When a High-Risk Forest Fire Alert is declared, which usually coincides with heat waves, strong winds, or Calima, it will not be possible to use the camping area at Llanos de la Mimbre or the Recreational Area Tamadaba (both in the municipality of Agaete), and the GC-216 circular road route through the area will be closed, except use by residents and public services. In the same way, access and transit on forest trails and tracks are also prohibited.
Although fires, generally, in the mountains are totally prohibited at all times and in any circumstances, at times of high risk of fire, that is, from July 1 to September 30, barbecues can still be used in the recreational areas that are scattered across the island, and in camping areas with barbecues such as Presa de las Niñas, Llanos de la Pez and Corral de los Juncos. These are always in brick barbecues and in kitchens using gas cylinders of less than 13 kilos, in wide-open places, where scrub clearing and tree pruning are carried out daily, and are considered safe areas. The use of these barbecues and portable kitchens is prohibited, however, when an alert is declared.
Any machinery that generates sparks, such as radial saws and welding equipment and, to a lesser extent, chainsaws and brush cutters, can be used in summer but always with a series of conditions. As the grass is dry, any spark could causes a fire very easily, so in the places where you work there should be no vegetation or combustible material. In the same way, with brush cutters, it is advisable to use a line head and have a fire extinguisher or hose nearby. In any case, when a Forest Fire High-Risk Alert is specifically declared, they are also totally prohibited.
Despite having a large and highly specialised team of fire crews, forest fires are very difficult to avoid completely, but they can be prevented so that the damage or spread of fire is as little as possible.
With almost half of its area considered a zone with a high risk of fire, specifically 41% of the island, Gran Canaria has suffered eight major forest fires since the year 2000. The largest one, in 2007, burned an area of more than 18,000 hectares. The summer fires of 2019 burned some 10,000 hectares of land and forced the evacuation of nearly 10,000 people.