Arsonists Blamed in Major Fire in Central Spain

By CIARAN GILES | August 29, 2012

A wildfire that forced the evacuation of 2,000 people just west of Madrid may have been started by several people working together, authorities said Tuesday.

Regional justice department chief Regina Planol told Cadena SER radio the fire affecting three towns was started in six points almost simultaneously, indicating it was arson. She compared it to “environmental terrorism” and urged residents to help police catch those responsible.

Alvaro Santamaria, the mayor of Valdemaqueda, one of the affected towns, said the fire came as close as 100 yards from the town’s homes. He said firefighters were confident the blaze could be brought under control Tuesday.

No one was injured and those evacuated were expected to be able to return later in the day.

Spanish National Television said some 8 square miles of land have burned. Spain has seen 580 square miles of land hit by nearly 12,000 wildfires this year – more than triple the amount burned last year.

Labor unions say Spanish government austerity cutbacks have led to a lack of resources to help firefighters battle blazes.

In southern Bosnia, military helicopters were sent in to help villagers and firefighters battling devastating wildfires in a region that has seen record high temperatures and no rain for over two months.

Pero Pavlovic, spokesman for the regional Civil Protection Agency, said the most critical situation Tuesday was around Glogosnica, where two blazes were creeping down inaccessible mountain slopes toward the village.

Wildfires were also burning near the Bosnian towns of Trebinje, Gacko, Nevesinje and Mostar.

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