Volunteers join firefighters battling Spain blaze 24 июля 2012, 15:48
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Volunteers join firefighters battling Spain blaze
Chugging along on tractors, brigades of volunteers rode to the aid of regular firefighters battling a deadly blaze in northeastern Spain on Monday, AFP reports.
Riding behind fire engines and military trucks dispatched to tackle the wildfire, which has killed four people since Sunday, a band of locals headed to the burning front near the town of Avinyonet de Puigventos.
"They called me at two o'clock in the morning and told me we had to come, so I got moving," said Toni Anglada, a 48-year-old farmer from a nearby town.
With his tractor he towed a sprinkler usually used to scatter fertiliser on his fields, but now filled with water to quench the flames raging nearby.
Authorities set up a coordination post near Avinyonet de Puigventos to oversee the work of a 700-strong force of firefighters, military personnel and volunteers to tackle the western front of the blaze.
"The volunteers have been working all night, like us," said Leandre, one of the firemen manning the post a few kilometres (miles) from where helicopters were dumping tonnes of water on the flames.
"Their help is important, especially with a fire like this, with so many outbreaks," he told AFP, as he met with Toni to discuss exactly where the volunteers would be deployed.
"We need water here and here, that's where the fire is gaining ground," another firefighter explained, pointing to a map.
The wildfire broke out on Sunday near the town of La Jonquera and spread quickly across the Alt Emporda region near the French border, whipped on by winds of up to 90 kilometres (55 miles) an hour.
By Monday it had covered some 13,000 hectares (32,000 acres), authorities said, devouring trees and filling the sky with black smoke that reached as far as Barcelona, some 150 kilometres (90 miles) away.
Authorities said the fire had claimed four lives, including those of a Frenchman and his 15-year-old daughter who jumped off a cliff to escape the flames.
A 75-year-old Spanish man died of a heart attack as he watched his house burn down and a 64-year-old Frenchman died in hospital from burns suffered when his car was engulfed in flames.
Avinyonet de Puigventos survived the fire without casualties, but "all the wood for kilometres and kilometres around the town has been burned," said Pere Sibeques, a local man of 75.
"We won't see it green ever again and as for our children, who knows?" said his wife, Teresa Sirvent, 70.
The fire reached within nearly a kilometre of the couple's house.
"The flames were several metres high. It gave me goose bumps," Teresa said. "I cried when I saw it burning everything."
Some volunteers rushed to the scene from beyond the local farmland.
August Imbert, 33 -- a computer specialist who works in Girona, a major town in the area -- dropped everything and ran to help fight the blaze.
"I asked them to give me the day off and the company was understanding," he said, visibly exhausted after working 14 hours without a rest on Sunday and nine hours on Monday.
"We brought water and protected the barns and gas reserves by soaking the ground around them. I've lost count of how many trips we've made with the truck," added August, who has served for eight years in a volunteer fire brigade.
"I have seen several fires, but not many like this."
As the firefighters worked, residents of Avinyonet de Puigventos and 16 other towns in the area were ordered to stay indoors.
"They told us to keep the doors and windows closed and not to move, to avoid the smoke and ash which were covering everything," said one local resident, Joan Poc, 70.
"The farm workers' houses over there outside the town -- not one of them burned," he added. "Thanks to the fact that in each of them there were volunteers with their trucks and tractors."