The devastating fire in Bejís (Castellón) is advancing to the southeast and this implies a direct threat to the nearby Sierra Calderona, considered the green lung of the province of Valencia and one of the most beloved and visited environmental and landscape enclaves in the Valencian Community.
In addition, since this morning, firefighters are trying to control another forest fire declared in the western area of this Natural Park, in the municipality of Olocau, whose mayor has ordered the preventive confinement of the population.
But why is this mountain range so important, located between the provinces of Valencia and Castellón, and why is there so much fear that the flames will devour part of its treasures of flora and fauna?
The last major fire that affected this area took place in the summer of 2017, when the fire destroyed 1,300 hectares between the municipalities of Gàtova, Segorbe, Altura and Soneja, a third of them within the Natural Park.
The Sierra de Calderona was declared a Natural Park in 2002 and covers 18,019 hectares in fifteen municipalities to the northwest of the metropolitan area of Valencia and with native and protected fauna and flora.
The Natural Park, whose territorial scope coincides with the so-called Protection Zone in the Natural Resources Management Plan (PORN) of the Sierra Calderona, extends between the provinces of Castellón and Valencia, including sectors of municipal terms such as those of Albalat dels Tarongers, Algimia de Alfara, Altura, Estivella, Gátova, Gilet, Marines, Náquera, Olocau, Sagunto, Segart, Segorbe, Serra and Torres Torres.
The Generalitat Valenciana based its decree, in January 2002, on the “exceptional nature of said natural space in the territorial context of the Valencian Community, due to its ecological, landscape and ethnographic values”.
Located between the Palancia and Turia rivers, it is one of the largest parks in the Valencian Community and has very outstanding values in terms of variety and good conservation of forest habitats, together with a varied fauna, among which the eagle stands out. Bonelli’s, the peregrine falcon, the eagle owl and the short-toed eagle.
According to the Generalitat, this area is a “typical example” of a central area of the pre-coastal Valencian Mediterranean mountain range, since the abrupt orography, together with the variety of topographical orientations and rocky substrates, both siliceous and calcareous, allow the existence of vegetation and a diverse flora of great interest.
The geological environments also stand out for their variety and abundance of unique enclaves. The fauna is very varied with different forest, scrub, rocky, riverside and cultivated areas.
“All this modulated by the secular interaction between the physical environment and human activity, in a historical agro-silvo-pastoral context, generating a traditional rural environment of great environmental, landscape and cultural value”, collected the official decree of the then Ministry of Environment, current Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development, Climate Emergency and Ecological Transition.
The Generalitat also decided to protect this natural space from “negative impacts” produced in recent decades “that seriously compromise the survival of its environmental and cultural values and advise the authorization of specific administrative measures to improve its control”.
Among these impacts, “recurring forest fires, uncontrolled urbanization of second homes, dumping of urban waste, massive agricultural transformations and the disorderly influx of visitors in certain environments” stand out, according to the Valencian Government.
And what are the most visited places in all that green mantle? The most emblematic, to the west of the Park, is the Garbí viewpoint (a mountain of almost 600 meters in Estivella), followed by the La Pedrera viewpoint (in Serra), the Molí de la Ceja (Gàtova), the monastery of Sant Esperit (Gilet), the Mola de Segart, the Salt de Náquera, the Picayo in Sagunto or the castle of Torres Torres.