My in-laws came home from the beach and immediately asked us if there was any news about the fire. The news of this potential news came as a surprise to us. To that point it had been a rather regular Sunday afternoon in Alt Empordà spent annoying the family dachshund and sleeping off the wine from a wedding in a vineyard the night before. Standing out on the terrace showed a different scene though. A mushroom cloud up in the hills (which we later found to be centered in la Jonquera near the French border) was growing and quickly descending upon the Empordà Plain.
Within an hour, the air was thick and clinging to our skin. It reminded me of stepping out of the airport in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire to be greeted by several million cooking fires and thick tropical air. The color was surreal, as if some hipster had taken a photo and ran it through Instagram 10 times to get the desired effect. But no, it was the air that we were breathing and the sirens heading north grew more frequent and constant as more fire crews headed to battle the blaze that had quickly gotten out of control, fueled by 90kph tramuntana winds.
Those who were heading north, either for business or pleasure encountered the fact that all local and toll highways had been closed before the border. The line of cars stretched for 30 kilometers. Thankfully, we were heading in the other direction to stay at the farm that night. Even 40 kilometers south though, the smoke was licking through the air and in the morning, the car had a fine layer of ash on it. I can only imagine how it much have looked further north which is why the authorities implemented a mandatory curfew for the entire county.
We made our way to Barcelona the next day, still immersed in the smoke of the fire despite being nearly 200 kilometers from it at this point. But day by day, the smoke dispersed, mainly due to a change in winds that started driving the fire further in to the mountains where it would be impossible to fight.
While still burning, even as I write this, it is under control and not spreading further. The cause? A cigarette butt undoubtedly tossed by some long haul trucker too lazy to toss it in an ash tray because he was getting a blowjob by a hooker in la Jonquera. They’re working to perform DNA tastes on butts that they found at the source to see if someone can be held accountable for this disaster that has ultimately claimed 14,000 hectares, four lives, and many homes.
As for the vineyards that are plentiful throughout where the fire passed, we’ve heard that they’re generally okay, but the jury is out on some. It appears that in general, wine vines can resist fire rather well, so I am told.