Felipe Sánchez has spent the night awake. Without sleeping a wink, he “heard” the wood burning. “It was heard from my house. I looked out on the balcony and saw swirling flames and fire.” The fire that has ravaged the Las Hurdes region since Wednesday had already reached the gates of Ovejuela, a district of Pinofranqueado (Cáceres) that, with Felipe, has only 77 inhabitants. On Thursday night, the proximity of the flames made it advisable to evacuate the town, but it was not possible. The fire, which this Friday has already ravaged 8,500 hectares, forced to cut the only access road, the CC-155. Already in the morning, 27 neighbors have been able to leave the place. Ten of them, mostly over 60 years of age, have been transferred by bus to a student residence on the outskirts of Caminomorisco, about 60 kilometers away. The rest, in the houses of relatives or friends.
Another resident of Ovejuela, José Sánchez, 61, tells how they found out that they could not leave their town. “When they told us, we were already on the buses ready to go,” he says. “We got off, they gave us some sandwiches and we went home again.” He assures that the fire was next to the road. A thick cloud of smoke obliterated visibility. Driving was dangerous. They already suspected it, but they confirmed it: they had been trapped. “I saw the entire mountain of smoke and the entire road and I thought ‘no one leaves here’,” he recounts.
When they woke up this Friday morning, everything was smoke. “You couldn’t even see the sky,” says Félix Sánchez, 72. The man, already retired, calls his cousin who lives in Pinofranqueado from the residence to ask her “how is the fire going?” After talking to her, her face darkens. He tells her that the fire continues out of control and more and more hectares are burned. “I didn’t expect to have to leave my house,” he laments. “The Civil Guard has come (this morning) knocking door to door to let us know that we had to leave.” By then the smoke no longer covered the road, but it was gradually concentrating in the town, located in a valley. “The fire was surrounding him,” say several neighbors.
Around 11 in the morning, they got on the bus and arrived at what will be their house during —they hope— only this weekend. Julio Bravo, the director of the student residence that serves as a hostel, points out that the 100 students who stay at the center go home from Friday to Sunday. “We have two plants enabled for this type of emergency situation, every year we have received evacuees due to fires,” he points out. The ten neighbors are still waiting to receive news to find out when they can return to their homes. Meanwhile, the distraction is to go for a walk around the area, but the noise of the helicopters that fly over the area remind them that the fire is still active although from their rooms they can see a leafy landscape of Las Hurdes that has not been reached by the calls.
What affects the most is what happens closer. To not miss anything, subscribe.
Between Ovejuela and another town, Hernán Pérez, almost 140 people have had to leave their homes. They join the 550 who, at dawn on Thursday, were evacuated from Cadalso, Descargamaría and Robledillo de Gata, which have been installed in Moraleja.
The cause of the fire, which also affects the Sierra de Gata, is human and intentional, as confirmed by the president of the Junta, Guillermo Fernández-Vara, during his visit to the command post. “Whoever did it knew very well what he was doing, how he was doing it and when he was doing it at a time when he was starting the night that made it difficult to respond promptly,” Vara pointed out. Burns on burnt: Las Hurdes, a region of abrupt orography and full of resin pines, an area especially punished by drought, already suffered a great fire last year, that of Ladrillar, which destroyed 3,241 hectares.
Subscribe to continue reading
Read without limits