A Spanish man who suffered 80% burns while digging a trench to prevent a fire from reaching his hometown has died of his injuries three months later, friends said on Tuesday.
Ángel Martín Arjona, 50, the owner of a construction warehouse in Tábara, was seen abandoning his bulldozer and running across a field with his clothes on fire after he was caught in the fire on July 18.
His friend José Manuel Taba confirmed that he had died on Monday, after being admitted to a hospital in Valladolid (central Spain) since then.
“The grafts were working but unfortunately there have been complications,” added the mechanic Juan Lozano, Arjona’s childhood friend.
Locals had hailed him as a hero in July, and Lozano said the town had declared three days of mourning in his honor.
The fire started in Losacio, in the northwest of the province of Zamora, on July 17.
It was one of the largest in Spain in 2022, and burned some 26,000 hectares. Four people died, including Arjona.
Climate change is exacerbating fires, as the increasing number of heat waves creates conditions that help them spread faster, burn longer and be more intense. Increased heat strips moisture from vegetation, turning it into dry fuel, a problem exacerbated by the decrease in the labor required to clear vegetation in rural Spain.
So far this year, fires have devastated 260,000 hectares throughout Spain, which is the worst year of fires in almost three decades, according to government data.
Fires across Europe have razed 775,941 hectares this year, the second largest area on record, according to data from the European Union’s Joint Research Center.