Four people have been killed and 14,000ha of forest destroyed in two fires in the Pyrenean region of Emporda on the Spanish-French border.
Fires at La Jonquera La Jonquera [image: thefreeonline]
David Rovira Parker of the major wine producer Castillo de Perelada in DOP said each fire appears to have been started at different points in the region at the roadside by people throwing lighted cigarettes out of their cars.
After a very dry spring and summer the woodland was tinder-dry, and the powerful Tramontana wind quickly kindled the flames.
The first fire was started at La Jonquera and headed towards Figueres, while the second started at Port Bou, covering much of the territory of Emporda and threatening the vineyards.
People were forced to abandon their cars and try to run to safety, some jumping into the sea where local boatmen rescued them. Others were not so lucky.
Perelada’s Pont de Molins vineyard suffered some damage, with about 600 vines scorched. The fires are now under control but the vineyard manager calculates that 1,000 kg of grapes will be lost from the 2012 harvest.
Fortunately for most growers, vineyards actually act as a ‘firewall’ according to the Consejo Regulador: the vines don’t themselves burn, but the outer rows which are closest to the fire become scorched and their grapes are useless.
Producers report peripheral damage to the edges of the vineyard but less damage to the vines in the centre.
The reason for this is that vineyards are ‘clean’ – i.e. there tends to be no scrubland or undergrowth between the rows, unlike the forest floor.
Written by John Radford