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Posted August 28, 2012 EST

Arsonists Blamed In Major Fire In Central Spain
World - Arson was suspected in a wildfire that forced the evacuation of 2,000 people just west of Madrid, while firefighters in Bosnia used military helicopters Tuesday to battle blazes there. A fire affecting three towns near the Spanish capital was started in six points almost simultaneously, indicating it was arson, regional justice department chief Regina Planol told Cadena SER radio.

She called it "environmental terrorism" and urged residents to help police catch those responsible.

Alvaro Santamaria, the mayor of Valdemaqueda, one of the affected towns, said the fire came as close as 100 meters (yards) but firefighters were confident it could be brought under control Tuesday.

No one was injured and those evacuated were expected to return later in the day.

Spanish National Television said some 20 square kilometers (8 square miles) of land have burned. In all, Spain has seen 1,500 square kilometers (580 square miles) of land hit by nearly 12,000 wildfires this year - more than triple the amount burned last year.

Labor unions say Spanish government cutbacks have led to a lack of resources to help firefighters battle blazes.

In southern Bosnia, military helicopters were sent in to help villagers and firefighters battling devastating wildfires in a region that has seen record high temperatures and no rain.

Pero Pavlovic, spokesman for the regional Civil Protection Agency, said the most critical situation Tuesday was around Glogosnica, where two blazes were creeping down inaccessible mountain slopes toward the village.

Wildfires were also burning near the Bosnian towns of Trebinje, Gacko, Nevesinje and Mostar and in other Balkan countries, including Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia.

In Serbia, emergency official Predrag Maric said 10,000 acres (4,050 hectares) of forest have been destroyed in the past few weeks as the country was hit by more than 200 fires.

"Huge damage has been done, forests cannot be replaced easily and quickly," he said.

But Maric said the only big fire still not fully under control was on Mount Tara in central Serbia.

In neighboring Croatia, the army joined firefighters in battling dozens of wildfires but strong winds hampered their efforts. Some 120 workers were trying to tame a fire that was approaching homes near Rudine, close to the coastal city of Split.

"The situation is serious," firefighter commander Milivoj Taslak said. Two special aircraft and one helicopter had joined the firefighting efforts.

Authorities in Montenegro were battling over 60 fires but rain had helped those efforts.

Written by Associated Press

Courtesy of YellowBrix
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