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Visiting Catalonia? aiming for a hike in the forest?

Hi guys

If you're coming from regions where wildfires are not usual, please read this.

For those coming on holiday to Catalonia this summer, please note we're in an exceptionally dry year, even more than the previous one, and the danger of forest fires is EXTREMELY HIGH.

If you're visiting any foresty area (that includes, for example, a day escapade to Montserrat!!!!), be very vigilant, DO NOT engage in any activity that could cause a fire, and respect the signals in the forest. If it says the path is closed, do not proceed, your life could depend on that.

On a rare TV appearance earlier today, the head of our GRAF teams, from the Catalan Fire Brigade (sort of the Type 1 incident management teams in the US Fire Service) explained that we might experience a type 6 fire this year for the first time in our History here in Catalonia. Those in the know will be familiar with the concept. Suffices to say that's an inferno type of wildland fire. While wildfires are relatively common in the countries around the Mediterranean basin, most of them are relatively easy to control, but every few years you have an exceptionally complex season which can cause havoc... and 2022 seems that can be one of them.

Some advice if you are planning FOR A HIKE in any forest in Catalonia:

  • It is forbidden to start any fire in the forest/rural areas during the Summer season. That includes barbeques.
  • Be prepared to have to change your plans at very short notice. Check with the relevant authority whether the forest/natural park you want to visit is open to the public. In exceptional circumstances, these areas might be closed to public access (hikers, cyclists...). Understandably you might not be familiar with these administrative issues here, so ask your hotel front desk to find out for you. If you are not in a hotel, one way to find this out is to call 1-1-2 (they can serve in a range of languages) and ask. They might redirect you to a different service.
  • Follow the indications on the post signs located on the main forest paths. If the path is closed, turn around, do not proceed.
  • If you see smoke immediately call 1-1-2 (Emergency telephone)
  • Our Fire Service is very good and very professionalized, they know what to do, always follow their instructions if you get caught in a wildfire.

Needless to say, this warning is not only centred in Catalonia but extends to all the Mediterranean basin regions, from l'Algarve in Portugal to Andalucia or Valencia in Spain to the South of Italy, Greece or Türkiye among others.

Hey, needless to say, this should NOT significantly alter your plans, you just need to keep INFORMED on the developments, be AWARE, be VIGILANT and act RESPONSIBLY when hiking. I do regularly hike with my dog and I won't stop this year (unless the Government of Catalonia says so), neither should you, just be in the know.

Thank you, and enjoy your visit.

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UPDATE

June 16th - The Government of Catalonia is seriously considering the possibility of closing, or severely restricting, access to the public in all (or almost all) of Catalonia's natural parks until the end of summer. The convergence of three large wildfires that are still being extinguished has led to a rethinking of the summer campaign. The government does not want a repeat of the 1998 scenario where thousands of hectares were burned due to forest fires putting the firefighters' resources to the limit. Source: https://www.vilaweb.cat/noticies/govern-tancar-parcs-naturals-estiu-risc-incendis/

How does this affect visitors?... if you planned to visit, for example, the very popular Natural Parks (among visitors) of Montserrat or Cap de Creus, near Cadaqués, for some hiking you'll need to keep a close eye on developments and have a plan B at short notice, just in case. IMPORTANT: This does not affect the visits to the monastery of Montserrat in itself or the town of Cadaqués, just the hiking in the surrounding parks.

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I heard a fascinating story on the radio yesterday about Spain's firefighting efforts. Apparently the forests have grown and that endangers populated cities more. Now I know why I saw weed wackers everywhere!
The story was about how shepherding and specifically the use of sheep to clear underbrush is becoming increasingly popular. Really ingenious!

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In Spring, nearly 300 goats, sheep, lambs and goatlings have been grazing in Collserola, the natural park on the north side of Barcelona, for almost a month. They are part of a pilot plan of preventive grazing with the aim that the flock eats from the undergrowth as an anti-fire measure: https://beteve.cat/medi-ambient/pastor-collserola-no-estressar-cabres-ovelles/ It's 'weird' if anything, for many city residents to encounter these flocks in a forest we Barcelonans go to as if it was one of the city's public parks.

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UPDATE

July 15th - Unfortunately the worst forecasts for this Summer have become reality and we are now in the middle of another strong heat wave that is affecting many of places in the Iberian Peninsula and causing serious wildfires.

In Catalonia, our government has just activated the highest level of the Alfa plan for the prevention of wildfires. Therefore, it has decreed the following measures which will be in place from July 15th until 19th. These measures can be extended according to the behaviour of the heat wave.

  • No camping, no outdoor activities in the forests (hiking, trekking, cycling, etc)
  • No driving of any kind in forestry areas -except for residents and some "unajournable activities" (re: farming), which will require explicit permission of the authorities.
  • Access to the Nature Parks of Montgrí, Cap de Creus, l’Albera, les Gavarres, Montsec d’Ares, Montsec de Rúbies, Baronia de Rialp, Montserrat i Sant Llorenç del Munt i l’Obac WILL BE CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC.

How does this affect visitors? two very popular sites, the nature parks of (1) Montserrat and (2) Cap de Creus (near Cadaqués) are closed to the public until the 19th (for now). In Montserrat, access to the monastery via the cable car or the track train will remain open and visitors will be able to access to the different buildings (church, museum, etc), but access to the Nature Park will remain off limits. Also, there won't be any funicular service to Sant Joan or to the Holy Grotto. (https://www.montserratvisita.com/en/news/1916)

More info: https://www.vilaweb.cat/noticies/govern-impulsa-restriccions-onada-calor/

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For those in Barcelona, it seems access to the Nature park of Collserola, north of the city, might also be restricted. I just hear this so I don't yet know the particulars.