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Weekend of fires in Spain's Valencia sparks fears of arsonists on the loose

The Local Spain
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Weekend of fires in Spain's Valencia sparks fears of arsonists on the loose
A series of intentional wildfires have been lit in Valencia. Photo: JOSE JORDAN / AFP

A series of wildfires in the Devesa del Saler forest area of Valencia have been causing growing concerns over pyromaniacs in the region, with other fires over the weekend in Alicante also likely to be intentional.

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The latest in this series of fires took place this weekend in the sugar cane fields around El Saler, near the Natural Park of Albufera and its lagoon.

Fortunately, the fires have now been brought under control, but Valencia mayor María José Catalá, has expressed "concern" at being told that it’s "very likely" the blazes were started intentionally.

“We cannot clearly say that it was accidental or intentional, but they tell me that everything seems to indicate that it is intentional,” she explained.

“For a few months now we've had a pyromaniac on the loose in Valencia”, Catalá stated, “an arsonist who is doing a lot of damage and an arsonist who, of course, has to be controlled”.

READ ALSO: Why are there so many forest fires in Spain? 

Towards the end of 2023, there was another spate of intentional fires in the same area, and in October Spanish Civil Guard arrested the man they believed to be responsible.

La Dehesa del Saler is a Mediterranean forest located between the Albufera lagoon, known as the birthplace of paella, and the sea, and covers around 800 hectares. Made up of countless different types of trees and home to various types of wildlife, it is an important natural habitat, which must be protected.

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In order to control the latest fires, 30 and 40 firefighters were called up to help put it out. Catalá has promised that the City Council will do its job and install water cannons in the Devesa area and is reinforcing the workforce of municipal firefighters, improving facilities and providing them with "all possible material".

"I am doing everything possible to let nothing happen to La Devesa, but we need the administration of justice to be forceful,” she continued.

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Over the same weekend, there were a further four intentional fires started further south in Villajoyosa in Alicante province.

The first occurred on Cervantes Street, in a container, followed by another in Castelar Square, in the old town; one more on Varadero Avenue; and the last one on Puerto Avenue.

The incidents are now being investigated, and according to police sources, everything points to one person as being responsible for them.

To make matters worse, Valencia's fires have also served as political ammunition, with far-right party Vox accusing left-wing opponents of somehow being involved.

Vox party member within the Valencia City Council, José Gosálbez hinted that the coincidence "stands out” as “since the Left lost power, the fires have multiplied, with 16 hectares of burnt area”.

The spokesperson for the Socialist Party of Valencia PSPV, Sandra Gómez, said his statements were those of "a political arsonist", and "out of line”.

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