Spain reprimands public for careless behavior leading to forest fires

Spain has endured about 23,000 forest fires this year, up more than 25 percent from the same time last year. The blazes have destroyed more than 370,000 acres of land and killed 17 citizens — and more than 90 percent of them have been started by people. The government has long avoided assigning blame to the public, perhaps fearing political fallout, but now environment minister Cristina Narbona is criticizing Spaniards for widespread flouting of fire-safety regulations and for not reporting violations. Forest fires in Spain are frequently set by farmers and ranchers seeking to clear land for fields or pastures or drive off wildlife. Some arsonists are burning forests to facilitate urban development. “I am not going to apologize for saying that society is complicit in these fires,” said Narbona in August. “The ones that should apologize are the people that produce, tolerate, and consent to these fires.”