Wildfires in Spain
We don’t seem to have had a regular winter here in Spain this year. February is usually the coldest, wettest month of the year, but this February has been glorious. It’s been wall-to-wall blue skies and sunshine, very little rain, and not a single snow-flake. (I’m not complaining, although Paco next door shakes his head and says it’s not good for the olive and grape harvest this year.) The lack of rain probably explains this unusual event…
“Another day in paradise,” I thought as I climbed the staircase to our roof terrace. I set down the heavy laundry basket, heaped with wet bed linen. Perfect drying weather: very windy, but not a cloud in sight, and the sun beating down. The washing would flap itself dry in no time.
I leaned on the terrace wall and looked around. Joe and I never tire of the view over the village and around the mountains. A few curls of smoke, rising from the only occupied houses in the village, were swiped away by the wind. Clusters of almond trees, dressed in white blossom, decorated the mountain slopes, the wind ripping at their petals. The green mountain tops gave way to endless blue sky.
I turned my head, and froze. To the west, on a nearby mountainside, I could see black smoke, a lot of it. I squinted. Not just smoke, but flames reared up as I watched, spreading in a line as wide as a football pitch. A wildfire, and it was moving fast, whipped up by the high winds.
“Joe! Joe!” I yelled. “I think there’s a wildfire on the mountain. Quick! Bring the binoculars!”
In the short time it took Joe to join me upstairs, the fire had doubled. Trees and bushes burst into flame as the fire galloped up the mountain, devouring the dry vegetation, fanned by the wind.
“I’m going to get Paco,” I said and clattered back down the staircase at high speed. I knew Paco would be next door as he always took his annual leave during February, spending it shooting quail and carousing with his friends. I shot out into the street, and, calling him, burst through the open front door. Paco was alone in the little kitchen, skinning a rabbit for the pot on the fire.
“¿Que pasa?” he asked, alarmed.
“¡Fuego! Fuego arriba!” I explained breathlessly. I waved my arms and pointed. I knew that Paco would alert the Fire Brigade, and he would describe it much more clearly than I could in my stumbling Spanish.
Paco wiped his hands on Carmen-Bethina’s best tea cloth and followed me into the street. I pointed up the mountain, and he stared, shading his eyes with his hand from the glare.
“I’ll call the Fire Brigade,” he said, and disappeared back inside his house.
Joe and I watched from our roof terrace. The fire had crested the hill, travelling away from our village but heading toward the next, out of sight over the mountain. Clumps of bushes on our side of the mountain were still alight, but the heart of the wildfire, judging by the black smoke, was growing on the other side. El Hoyo was in no danger, unless the wind changed direction, but the next village was.
Helicopters arrived with giant bags of water. They buzzed overhead, hovered, and spilled their loads to douse the flames. Then figures appeared on the hill, and the last stray patches of flame were beaten into submission.
That evening, when the sun went down, Joe stoked the wood-burner in our kitchen.
“I’d better bring the washing in,” I said. “It’ll be nice and dry by now.”
I climbed the staircase yet again. Although the mountainside was black, dotted with smoking tree skeletons, the fire was out. It was then that I discovered that the washing was not dry at all. In all the excitement of the fire, I had forgotten to peg it out.
But that’s the good thing about living in Spain, tomorrow invariably brings another sunny day…
16th March 2013 @ 1:08 am
Vicky, I have enjoyed reading your books and have just now checked out your Old Fools Blog. I have enjoyed all your writing, your books, your recipes and now your blog. Thank goodness you escaped the fire on your side of the mountain this month. I hope no villages suffered on the other side. I presently live in Florida but visit Andalusia at least once a year. I was in Torremolinos last fall and am going back again in a little over a week for 65 days, staying in a studio at the Bajondillo Aparthotel. I like being on the Mediterranean and close to the Malaga airport, but I also like to go on short travel excursions during my stays. I am wondering if I were to visit El Hoyo by bus what the best way would be to get there. Could you give me the name of a hotel close by? it doesn’t have to be fancy, I don’t mind roughing it, although I like staying in nice places too. If it is conveniently located, that would be good enough. I love the little eggs that look like chickens! What a cute idea and a good way to get a little vegetable too.
16th March 2013 @ 10:43 am
Thanks for the message, and I’m very pleased you enjoyed the books. In answer to your question, Malaga is about 130 miles away from where we live, so definitely not a short trip. Our village is in the mountains, inland, not on any bus route, and there aren’t any shops nearby, let alone hotels! I think it’s wonderful that you enjoy Spain so much. Our village isn’t special, it’s just like the thousands of other white-washed villages that you see in Andalucia.
5th April 2013 @ 3:34 pm
I’m just enjoying your 2nd book now. You put a smile on my face every night, it’s lovely to read a book that makes me laugh out loud! I love the way you write. I’ve just started to follow you on twitter too. I’m @winterpimms, the one with the holiday cottages in Cornwall that you have just started to follow too! Maybe one day I may put pen to paper and write about the guests in our cottages! Boy do we get them. I’m not sure the stories would roll off the end of my pen quite like yours though?! I look forward to following your Blog. Here’s mine, http://holidaycornishcottages.wordpress.com/2013/03/09/petrol-head/ , lately it’s been more about passing on festivals etc to guests so they can plan when to visit Cornwall, i think this links to the last odd blog of mine!
Enjoy the sun :~) Arran
5th April 2013 @ 3:50 pm
Thanks for the kind words, Arran. I’m a bit neglectful of Twitter at the moment, but I’ll look out for you. (I seem to hang out on Facebook more.) Just visited your blog which made me smile. Keep up the good work with the writing, and I bet a book about your Cornish guests would be hilarious! 🙂