The professional firefighters of Castilla y León rise up against the Junta de Castilla y León and the Provincial Council of Ávila for their management of the Navalacruz fire this August. This Monday, professionals from the entire community and from other parts of Spain are expected to attend a demonstration called by civil society in the capital of Avila against the deficiencies, abandonment and poor planning in terms of extinction that has exposed the worst fire in Castilla y León since the 1980s, with more than 20,000 hectares destroyed.
The call for this demonstration comes a week after the Unitary Coordinator of Professional Firefighters, one of the main professional associations in the country, filed a complaint about the action of the Avila fire, and considers that there were “multiple irregularities in the way of acting to stop and extinguish the fire, which could constitute criminal actions, by action or omission on their part “.
On August 14 at 10:27 a vehicle began to burn at kilometer point 38 of the N-502, in the municipality of Navalacruz. The firefighters association believes that the irregularities began at this point. “For unknown reasons, no immediate action is taken by any public prevention, fire fighting and rescue service.” They denounce that the troops took up to an hour to arrive after the warning. This delay is attributed to the lack of prevention measures of the Provincial Council, since the province of Ávila does not have any provincial fire station, delegating the powers for the entire province to the fire station of Avila capital.
In addition, in the action itself they consider that there are irregularities, because after detecting that there is a burning vehicle in the area, “it is not immediately extinguished. If that action had been immediate, diligent and adequate, the fire could have been avoided by extinguishing the fire of the vehicle immediately, preventing it from spreading inexorably to the mountains “, they emphasize. In the complaint they also warn of failures in the classification of the fire. Despite its proximity to an area of scrubland, the fire is initially considered level 0. This decision, explains the association, “was negligent and probably generated criminal and / or civil liability, underestimating the scope and seriousness of the situation”.
According to the complaint, the facts show a breach of the Law Regulating the Bases of the Local Regime (art. 36C) that regulates the provision of the fire prevention and extinction service by the Provincial Council. In addition, they consider that Law 4/2007 of March 28, on Citizen Protection of Castilla y León, has been breached, according to which it must be carried out by means of a professional fire service and agents of the authority in the exercise of their functions. Recent rulings of the Administrative Litigation Court No. 3 of León (20/2020) and of the TSJCL (275/2020) reinforce the aforementioned laws, both regional and state, creating jurisprudence in this regard in Castilla y León. Because the Board, they criticize, relied on volunteer firefighters, contrary to what this ruling indicates.
From the coordinator, his spokesman Juan Carlos Prieto, explains that the attitude of the Board and the Provincial Council against fire professionals. Not only the lack of parks in some provinces that only have one in the capital, but also the fact that the Board rejected the help of professionals from other provinces. During the fire, the civil servants of Salamanca and Valladolid offered to participate in the extinction work, but the Board rejected it. “They excused themselves by saying that they did not have the capacity to coordinate so much cash, but they called the UME and the Salamanca volunteers,” he says.
This is one of the Gordian knots in the struggle of the Coordinadora in Castilla y León and for which they have also denounced the Board in the past: that the administration stops using volunteers in urban and peri-urban parks. “Citizens have to know that the firefighters they see in many of their cities are not. They are unprepared people who wear uniforms. It is as if the administration put gowns on healers and said they are doctors,” Prieto denounces. According to criticism from the association, neither the Board nor several councils, such as Avila, prefer to choose to have fewer parks and nurtured with volunteers, which are cheaper, despite the fact that in proportion it counts more and the volunteers charge “illegally , because they cannot and should not charge, by law, “he underlines.
In summary, according to the complaint filed, there has been a abandonment of powers in matters of prevention and extinction of fires by the Ávila Provincial Council, which could generate criminal liability in view of what happened in Navalacruz, with inaction and / or action late and not very effective, in addition to a significant lack of coordination between the various administrations. From the platform they reiterate the need to approve a Law of Coordination of the Fire Brigades, which serves to minimize the danger of fires such as the one in Navalacruz.