The Prosecutor’s Office of Castilla y León has initiated investigation proceedings into the Sierra de la Culebra fire that burned more than 25,000 hectares in June in one of the most valuable ecosystems in the province of Zamora. It does so after the complaint of the Workers’ Commissions union against the Minister of the Environment, Housing and Territorial Planning of the Junta de Castilla y León, Juan Carlos Suárez Quiñones, and against “other possible officials” of the Ministry for the “possible commission of facts that could constitute a crime” in relation to the fire that broke out on June 15. The official letter, to which elDiario.es has had access, is dated July 21.
CCOO has informed of the notification of the Prosecutor’s Office of the opening of the investigative proceedings to the Ministry of the Environment directed by Juan Carlos Suárez-Quiñones, which will serve to determine if there was “civil responsibility” or “abandonment of functions” on the part of the regional administration and “patrimonial responsibility” for political office or other officials, according to the union’s complaint.
At the time the fire started in the mountains on June 15, the firefighting operation activated was barely a quarter of the usual in the summer months when the Junta de Castilla y León fully activates its device, with a “medium risk” of declared fires. And this despite the heat wave warning from Aemet and the Copernicus satellite system that had warned of the “extreme risk” that Castilla y León would suffer a forest fire.
The Board’s lack of foresight meant that when the fire started, only eight of the usual 14 fire engines were available to fight the fire, a similar figure for the 18 truck crews. In terms of surveillance, only two of the turrets were occupied out of the 18 that are distributed in Zamora and, in addition, “there was no environmental agent on duty because they had been forced to take vacations.”
From CCOO they believe that the adverse weather indicated by the Board as the origin of the fire, with several sources of lightning from a dry storm, “is no excuse” and that what the regional government is looking for is “to cover up the lack of measures of those who do not have the operation is planned until July 1 because it is rigid” and that it has not been updated since 1999.
Since the fire, the union has called for the resignation or dismissal of the Environment Minister, Juan Carlos Suárez-Quiñones, as guilty of what happened and they accuse him and the regional Executive of “negligence and reckless attitude”.