Monday, September 25

The PSOE denounces the Junta de Castilla y León for “serious negligence” in the management of forest fires

The PSOE of Castilla y León has already presented the complaint to the Prosecutor’s Office of the Superior Court of Justice of the Community for the management of the fires against the Board and that it announced last Wednesday in the Plenary Session of the Cortes. In the letter, the socialists make an account of the events “considering that they could have criminal relevance”, and collect all the occasions, throughout the previous and current legislature, in which the regional government refused to have a device of fires throughout the year.

Throughout this summer, in Castilla y León there have been forest fires with “catastrophic” results for the environment and that have caused “irreparable human and material damage”. Thus, they remember that on June 15, 2022, as a result of a dry storm, a fire started that affected the Sierra de la Culebra, burning an area of ​​more than 24,000 hectares. In the previous days, the State Meteorological Agency had launched an alert for extreme temperatures, with maximum temperatures expected of up to 42 degrees. Likewise, a special notice of adverse phenomena was issued that included the province of Zamora.

“The high temperatures and winds in the area caused a rapid evolution of the fire. In the first 24 hours alone, more than 10,000 hectares burned, according to media reports. The rapid development of the fire contributed to the lack of means of extinction. This fire occurred fifteen days before the official activation of the Fire Plan of the Autonomous Community and apparently 75% of the troops were not available for deployment. And this despite the special weather conditions anticipated by the AEMET ”, they specify in the letter to the Prosecutor’s Office.

Autonomies that reacted to the AEMET warnings

The PSOE affirms that the reaction to the warnings from the State Meteorological Agency in the different Autonomous Communities or the consideration of the existence of a new climatic situation “led most of the Communities to anticipate the declaration of high risk” and points out what autonomies acted accordingly. “While in Castilla La Mancha the high risk of fire is declared or in communities such as Extremadura the high risk period had been brought forward to May 23, or in cases such as the Principality of Asturias in which a large part of its territory is already had declared in the first week of May the high risk, in the Community of Castilla y León the level of medium risk was maintained”, which implied “having 50% of the means of extinguishing fires in the Autonomous Community operational”. However, the PSOE points out “as the media collect and members of the existing firefighting teams state, the firefighting means available to the Junta de Castilla y León did not exceed 25% of those existing at the time of risk tall. This level was only declared by order of June 22, anticipating it to June 27. Four days above the normal period and with serious fires”.

The PSOE affirms that Castilla y León “was not in a position to face a fire like the one that started in the Sierra de la Culebra on June 15. And this despite the precedents. In this sense, he recalls the great fires that the Community suffered in the summer of 2021: “one in the Sierra de la Culebra itself, where a forest firefighter died and another in Navalacruz in Ávila, where almost 22,000 hectares were burned due to insufficient resources. to control what started as a small fire caused by a broken down car”. Regarding the latter, he cites the report of the Civil Guard, which “after a meticulous investigation” concluded that it could be deduced “hypothetically” that “had all the unfavorable conditions of the day on August 14 been taken into account, as well such as the warnings from the alerters regarding the seriousness of the vehicle fire and the existing risk of the fire spreading to the mountain, and if the CPM had also been alerted, it could have activated the aforementioned aircraft, existing, given the reaction time of the same, possibilities that the fire would not have occurred or its dimension would have been minimal.

According to the statement, the Junta de Castilla y León had already “communicated by means of a press release (comunicació, in which it declared an alarm of forest fire risk ‘due to meteorological causes on the 14th, 15th and 16th of the referred month throughout the Autonomous Community”. The PSOE emphasizes that it speaks of “alarm” and not of “alert” as “it is usual in the summer or in some other specific period, when the weather conditions are conducive to the generation of a fire.” For this reason, it concludes that “there was no adequacy between the existing level of risk and the preventive actions and the means available to deal with a possible fire. This situation is repeated again in the fire of the Sierra de la Culebra”.

Insufficiency of means that was noticed a year before

The insufficiency of means in environmental protection, he assures, was general, and was being revealed by the officials of the Ministry. In a letter signed by all the technicians and Heads of the Environmental Protection Section, signed on June 11, 2021, they already warned that “with the current means, there are not sufficient guarantees to correctly carry out the environmental protection entrusted to the environmental protection sections. This situation also extends to fire prevention and extinguishing actions, as has been highlighted by the personnel assigned to these functions.

The PSOE already requested in the X legislature of the Cortes (2019-2021), through a motion, that a time of “high fire danger” be declared when the climatic conditions determine it “even before July 1 and if it is necessary be extended until after September 30 when the conditions are technically justified. They also requested “to plan and incorporate from the first day of declaration of high fire danger all the surveillance posts, fire trucks, ground and helicopter crews” and appoint technicians and agents at the time of “high fire danger”. environmental protection of fire guard by region necessary for each day. The proposal was rejected with the votes of the PP and Ciudadanos, government partners at the time.

In that same legislature, the PSOE presented another motion in which it highlighted “the obstinacy of the Minister of the Environment in dismantling; year after year, the firefighting operation, with privatization, in addition to precarious working and safety conditions for its members, makes the device more inefficient and less effective”. The Socialists once again urged the Board to extend the duration of the fire extinguishing and prevention device to the entire calendar year and to adopt “immediately” the same measures that it tried to carry out in the previous motion, in addition to others related to the situation labor of the members of the operations. Again, the Popular Party and Ciudadanos blocked it with their votes.

The PSOE also presented a Proposal Not of Law (PNL) in the same sense in the Cortes, and it was also rejected. The same as another NLP on the Navalacruz fire in which they warned of the warnings for climate change that the UN had given, which specified that the consequences of change “will only be mitigated with habits, legislation and measures that will have to be implemented with absolute immediacy and within the framework of a declaration of climate alert”.

In this new legislature, in which the PP and Vox are partners of the Government, the PSOE presented another motion, insisting on taking measures after the fires of the summer of 2021 in Navalacruz and Cepeda de la Mora (Ávila), where it was “evidenced in a way paradigmatic is the lack of human and material resources, the lack of optimal coordination of those available from the Junta de Castilla y León, whose negligent attitude was compensated by the extraordinary performance of professionals and volunteers of the precarious regional operation and the institutional cooperation of the rest of the intervening autonomous communities together with the State Administration, and in a singular way the intervention of the Military Emergency Unit, UME”.

The socialists conclude that the Junta de Castilla y León “was being warned repeatedly of the new situation that was taking place and of the need to adopt the appropriate measures to prevent forest fires through preventive actions and to have adequate means for their extinction. as quickly and safely as possible. To this end, it insisted on the need to have the fire extinguishing device activated throughout the calendar year, without at any time adopting any measure in this regard despite being aware of the serious increase in risk that had occurred ” . The “gravely negligent” attitude of the Board “has meant that the environment of the Community and its inhabitants have suffered serious economic and personal damage, without the Ministry of the Environment having adopted any measure to deal with this new situation and the new and greater risks that, as has been amply demonstrated, have become apparent”.

A communication contract for the partner of an official

Thus, they underline that the actions of the Junta de Castilla y León have focused on other areas such as communication and that last February the Ministry of the Environment awarded the communication service for the fire operation for an amount of €100,000 through a negotiated procedure without publicity to the partner of a Head of the Territorial Service of the Environment, as published by “Far from meeting the needs of the extinction operation, the image of the Ministry is served through communication services,” they point out.

A month after the fire in the Sierra de la Culebra, on July 15, 2022, “as a result of a dry storm, again meteorological phenomena associated with the current climatic emergency situation”, a new fire started in the town of Losacio (Zamora), which again affected the Sierra de la Culebra. This fire devastated 30,000 hectares of the Sierra de la Culebra, caused three deaths and thousands of people were evicted from their homes, and in this case, “once again, the insufficiency of means of the firefighting services was revealed, making it impossible to act fast enough to prevent rapid fire development.

“It is deduced a serious negligence of the Ministry of the Environment”

In all these cases, the competent ministry in the Junta de Castilla y León was the one that held the competences in matters of the Environment, currently the Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Territorial Planning, whose head is Juan Carlos Suárez-Quiñones Fernández. The PSOE points out that from the description of the facts “the existence of serious negligence on the part of the Ministry of the Environment, Housing and Territorial Planning is deduced, which, despite knowing the existence of an aggravated risk of fires in the Autonomous Community, did not adopt any measure aimed at preventing these and having sufficient means so that the extinction tasks, if any, could be carried out quickly and effectively, with the risk that this entailed for people, for the environment and for the estate”

The PSOE stresses that the existence of this risk was revealed “constantly, in parliamentary headquarters” and through the trade unions, which have denounced “the precariousness of firefighting services, the lack of means they suffer and the lack of adaptation of the prevention and extinction campaigns to the current climatic emergency situation with an accumulation of extreme weather events that increase the levels of risk throughout the year”.