Videos online show firefighting crews battling flames and trying to help the wildlife in Spain. The country has endured fierce wildfires since July that have killed or injured thousands of wildlife and destroyed swathes of countryside. On August 21, firefighters finally brought a wildfire under control that had been burning for nearly a week near the town of Bejis, in the Valencia region in southeast Spain.
At least 391 wildfires, some of them apparently started deliberately, have impacted more than 270,000 hectares of land in Spain this year – six times more than the yearly average over the past 15 years. The fire in Bejis burned 20,000 hectares of land, encroaching on a nature reserve in the region.
Hundreds of firefighters worked near Valencia to combat wildfires in the region. Up to 2,200 local residents of Bejis were evacuated, while 1,500 more in villages nearby were placed under lockdown.
As firefighters worked to control the blaze, they also dealt with the impacted wildlife in the area. A video shared on social media showed firefighters giving water to a small bird.
The person who shared the video, a firefighter with the Romeo 15 squadron, said the bird flew away after cooling off.
A video also showed a civil guard officer help a kitten that was affected by the forest fire drink water.
Other videos have shown firefighters around Spain helping to rehabilitate animals impacted by the summer’s fires. This video, shared on July 21, shows firefighters in northwestern Spain helping a deer drink water.
Firefighters found the deer dehydrated while they were fighting a fire in the Zamora province of northwestern Spain. The fire began on July 17 and burned for more than a week, engulfing 36,000 hectares. Two people died within the first 24 hours of the blaze.
The waves of fires across Spain this year killed more than 70,000 animals, wild and domesticated, according to the Franz Weber Foundation. These include wildlife as well as livestock and pets.
Fires can be a major disturbance for animals, putting them in danger and destroying habitats. Wildfires also destroy food and water resources, putting wildlife at risk as they search for food and a safe habitat. Still, many animal species have adapted to cope with wildfires, fleeing early or taking shelter as blazes spread.
Taking stock of ecosystem damage
On Sunday, August 21, officials from the Valencia region lifted evacuation orders and told Bejis residents they could start returning to their homes.
As the fire in Bejis came under control, firefighters moved to take stock of the damage and clear burned trees.
Some forests can take decades to recover from wildfires. Tree removal and replanting can help restore the landscape. Experts say that forests must be adapted to withstand fires and prevent widespread blazes, through the diversification of tree species and controlled burns.
Neighbouring countries France and Portugal have also battled vast wildfires in July and August as record temperatures have spiked across Europe. Experts have blamed climate change for the rising temperatures.
French President Emmanuel Macron promised to enact a “major national project” to regrow forests in the country’s southwestern region, impacted by severe fires.