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Also calls for the governing board of the natural park to take the lead in regeneration projects

Wednesday 17th September 2014

javeamigos.com | JAVEA · MONTGO BLAZE

In the wake of the desolation of Cabo de San Antonio from fire which was only regarded as completely extinguished on Tuesday morning, mayor José Chulvi called an extraordinary press conference to give an official assessment of what he called "one of the most devastating [fires] in recent times and a lot more serious than we imagined". Flanked by Chief Police Inspector José Antonio Monfort of the Policia Local de Xàbia and councillor Juan Ortolá who heads the Department for Public Safety, the mayor announced that he wanted to give a voice to the feeling in town on the the operation to extinguish the blaze on La Plana. He said: "Those of us who were on La Plana on Thursday night got the feeling that is now supported by reports from the Policia Local and the Department of the Environment that the area was abandoned to its fate by emergency services", adding that the fire-fighting task was more or less left in the hands of local units which consisted mostly of volunteers. Just two fire engines were on duty on Thursday night / Friday morning.

"We feel that the fire-fighting efforts were uncoordinated and followed technical directions given with little explanation," he said, adding that he has requested explanations from both 'Les Corts Valencianes' and the 'Diputación de Alicante' as to why there was a lack of sufficient air assets deployed to Jávea and why there was little cooperation from the 'Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Agricultura' (it took over an hour for a request for large capacity seaplanes to be addressed and then the request was denied due to the failing light).

The mayor said that the 'Puesto de Mando Avanzado (PMA)' - the Advanced Command Post - was moved to a position in Dénia from the shooting range in Jávea, a location from where Cabo de San Antonio could not be viewed, and done so without any explanation nor did the PMA respond to regular requests for assistance from the Policía Local de Xàbia made in the early hours of Friday morning who had warned of the progression of the inferno from the ravines in the area of the old Guardia Civil barracks towards the Cuesta San Antonio urbanisation. He said that he witnessed how the police officers shouted themselves hoarse for detachments from PMA and no reinforcement was sent up. "I'm not questioning the efforts of the firefighters themselves, those who worked in the face of the fire but I think that the coordination from PMA didn't work and its protocols left out the local assets who were familiar with the terrain," he said. For this reason, it was his opinions that "no-one can be satisfied or proud" of the results of the operation on Montgó but that "they have to clarify responsibility for what happened and completely revise protocols of action and evacuation immediately to prevent re-living a similar dangerous situation". He added that there was not even a census of swimming pools that might have been used to supply the air assets fighting the fire.

Local security authorities as well as many volunteers and residents took a great risk in fighting the blaze and preventing it it from damaging homes. The mayor greatly acknowledged their assistance as well as that of businesses such as SVS, the municipal water trucks and the municipal water company AMJASA who increased the supply of water to the area to help with the fire-fighting effort. He added that many residents have offered to assist with the reforestation efforts and their offers are being channeled through a section of the municipal website where they will be asked for their details and email address so that they can be notified when a reforestation project has been scheduled.

With regards to the home-owners affected by the fire, the mayor explained that he had arranged a meeting with the residents of La Plana this afternoon during which they will be informed of the support that they will receive from the Ayuntamiento de Xàbia which includes a 100% exemption from meeting water bills that would be charged during August and September as well as specific advice on dealing with insurance matters.

The mayor reiterated that they are still waiting for an urgent special meeting with the governing board of the 'Parque Natural del Montgó' to discuss what happened and especially how to deal with the aftermath including actions to regenerate the area for which the Ayuntamiento de Xàbia will make available the experience of the Department of the Environment who worked in the Granadella area after the fire of 2000 with very good results.

For the mayor, it is essential that the managing body of the natural park takes the lead but felt that such management was failing, both in response to situations that require its intervention such as the fire itself or issues like the proposed oil exploration that would affect the marine reserve and the proposed project to build a hotel at the lighthouse of Cabo de San Antonio. He added that he felt that the managing body "fails miserably" in communicating with residents in the zone and seem only interested in placing obstacles through rigid guidelines that provide no means to protect their property or the natural heritage around them.

For now, the Ayuntamiento de Xàbia is preparing a special budget for regeneration work and has asked the 'Diputación de Alicante' to provide 50% of the necessary funding. The mayor is confident that the Regional Ministry which is responsible for the 'Parque Natural de Montgó' will take up the gauntlet and also enable a special budget for regeneration which is to begin immediately through the felling of burnt pine trees, as advised by the experts. "We want investment to guarantee the recovery of the zone, its great protection and surveillance as well as things that don't cost money such as better communication and collaboration," he said, stressing that he expects the Regional Ministry to assume its responsibilities and compensate for the lack of maintenance of one of the most biologically rich area of the Comunidad Valenciana and its dereliction of duties in cleaning and surveillance which has turned the Montgó into a tinderbox.

The mayor added that the 'Parque Natural del Montgó' had suffered "two years of brutal cuts" during which the Generalitat Valenciana had reduced funding by 40% and now had to share resources with the other natural park in the region ('Marjal de Pego-Oliva') which is "unacceptable". He said that the Marina Alta had been left out of the regional plan for forestry employment and that the park management had ignored demands from the Ayuntamiento de Xàbia, such as that of April 2012 when it was requested that two fire engines be deployed to the park for a quick response to fire and that during times of high fire risk a permanent fire brigade was deployed.  He said that these cuts have endangered "the lives of residents, properties and the natural heritage" of the area which must "always be above any reduction in budget".

Minimum measures have been ignored, even during a very dry summer that has been experienced this year, and the Ayuntamiento de Xàbia has itself made an effort to commission a local surveillance plan which worked favourably on the day of the fire when a Protección Civil vehicle on the headland was able to address the emergency as well as launching a plan of forest cleaning via a special unemployment scheme which, despite the enormous size of the forested area of Jávea, still managed to carry out clearing work in the zones of Cale Monestir and Penáguila.

Regarding the future, the mayor said that "the only thing I care about is helping the locals".

The aftermath of the greatest fire for 15 years will continue ...

To read about "The Day Montgó Burned", click here.

javeamigos.com | JAVEA · FOREST FIRE 2014

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