The worst fires in the history of Spain

2022 has been a dark time for Spain when it comes to fires. About 229 250 hectares had already been destroyed by August, a higher sum than the last five years combined—all this according to official data provided by the Ministry of Spain. However, there have been even worse fires in the past. For instance, 1978, 1989, 1994 and 2006 were awful years in this respect. On the other hand, in 2018 they recorded the lowest rate so far: only 29000 hectares were burnt. Considering the number of hectares of land they destroyed, these are the worst fires in the history of Spain.

The 1994 fires of Catalonia

A total of 437635 hectares were burnt down in Spain in 1994, which renders it the second worst period of time regarding fires. The worst part went to Catalonia, where 76000 hectares were destroyed only in summer, between the 3rd and 18th July. Besides, these fires provoked five casualties, more than 40 wounded and the destruction of about 35 farmhouses.

The 2012 fires of Valencia

The summer of 2012 was particularly tragic for the Valencian Community, especially in the municipalities of Corte de Pallás and Andilla. When it comes to the former, the fire originated due to a welding negligence, and a strong western wind spread the catastrophe. The temperatures ascended to 40ºC. More than 30000 hectares burnt down.

At the time the fire was spreading through Corte de Pallás; another negligence, this time related to a bonfire, provoked a second great fire in the municipality of Andilla. On this occasion, 22500 hectares of land were burnt. Both fires amounted to 52500 hectares.

The 2017 fires of Galicia

A hillside with trees burning

The 2017 fires of Galicia. | Shutterstock

2017 was a bitter year for Galicia, considering they had to see 47000 hectares burn in only one year. The fire spread at a rate of 6km/h. “These fires [which showed signs of intentionality in a 60 to 90% of the cases] went over dams, created secondary sources at a distance of up to two kilometres, and generated a fire storm”, according to the WWF organization.

The 2004 fire of Minas de Riotinto

A temperature of 43,8ºC and a burning of waste that went incredibly wrong. Both elements combined to trigger the well-known fire of Minas de Riotinto, a catastrophe which resulted in two deceased and more than 30000 hectares being reduced to ashes. This disaster affected 13 municipalities in the area, and some villages like Berrocal still face the consequences of this tragic event, since the fire decimated its population and damaged the cork production, Berrocal’s main source of income.

The 2007 fires of the Canary Islands

A forest of pine trees

There are still traces of the 2007 fire in the natural reserve of Inagua, the Canary Islands. | Shutterstock

The Canary Islands faced two terrible fires in summer 2007, when they were suffering a major heatwave with temperatures of more than 40ºC. Tejeda in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and Los Ralejos in Tenerife were two of the most affected municipalities. About 37000 hectares burnt down in total.

The 2022 fire of Sierra de la Culebra

A burnt down forest

Sierra de la Culebra after the fire. | Shutterstock

As we have mentioned before, 2022 has been a tragic year regarding fires in Spain, which explains why two of the fires that have happened so far have made it to this grim list. Indeed, the fire of the mountain range Sierra de la Culebra is considered one of the worst in the history of Spain, and it is definitely the worst one in Castile and León. More than 22000 hectares were destroyed by its flames in an area that is considered a nature reserve.

The 2021 fire of Navalacruz

The same number of hectares burnt down in the 2021 fire of Navalacruz. In this case, the fire was an accident caused by a broken-down car in the ditch of the N-502 road. The flames quickly spread through a hillside and destroyed 22000 hectares before dying.

The 2022 fire of Bejís

This is the most recent one on the list, which we hope, will not need be updated in a long time. It occurred in the municipality of Bejís, in the Valencian Community. The fire sparked off a lightning and it devastated almost 20000 hectares, becoming one of the worst fires in the history of Spain.

The 2003 fire of Valencia de Alcántara

The culprit of this natural catastrophe was also a lightning. This large fire spread from Portugal to Cáceres and burnt down 13700 hectares of land in the municipality of Valencia de Alcántara. The temperatures, which were above 40 ºC, did not help either.

The 2005 fire of Riba de Saelices

A panoramic view of a field with a few trees

Riba de Saelices, Guadalajara. | Wikimedia

Riba de Saelices in Guadalajara still remembers with a bittersweet feeling the 2005 fire which took away the lives of 11 people and calcined 12800 hectares. It all started as a barbecue and ended up turning into one of the worst fires in Spain.

The 2012 fire of Castrocontrigo

The last fire on this list occurred in 2012, in the municipality of Castrocontrigo. 11500 hectares were set on fire. In addition, this fire was an arson and it had a huge economic impact in the municipality, since the wood and resin extraction was its main source of income.

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