The report warns that the first calls to the Emergencies warning of the proximity of the fire to the railway line were not even registered, which caused a train to become trapped.
A succession of errors in the hours before a train was trapped in the flames of the Bejís (Castellón) fire last August caused more than a dozen people to be injured by burns. Why nobody warned the train driver who covered the Valencia-Zaragoza route that the fire was approaching the railways is the unknown that the Civil Guard is trying to clear up, which in its report presented to the Segorbe court of investigation number 1 points to the Valencian Generalitat itself. Specifically, to the Emergency Coordination Center, as it concludes that “there was sufficient material time to take some measure regarding the safety of rail traffic.”
And this is because at 5:26 p.m. on August 16, the train in question was still at the Segorbe station. However, shortly before 6:00 p.m., he found himself in the middle of a fire that had been alerted because of its proximity to the tracks since 4:33 p.m. Nobody registered these first calls, according to the reconstruction that the Civil Guard made of the accident, with which nobody alerted Adif or Renfe either.
“There is evidence of a certain dysfunction in terms of the collection, transmission, reception and processing of information, because regardless of the volume of calls or notices that occurred that afternoon both in the Generalitat Emergencies of the Emergency Coordination Center and in the Forest Fire Prevention Center of Castellón, any relevant information that could affect the safety of people or property should have been dealt with properly,” concludes the Civil Guard, as it would have given them time to notify the train.
The fire was declared on August 15 in Bejís, but it was not until the 16th when the “abrupt change in the behavior of the fire” occurred due to an air intake starting at 2:00 p.m. It is then that its propagation speed begins to skyrocket.
The first problem comes with the so-called forward command post (PMA), which had to change location when the fire got out of control. It is the one that coordinates and directs all the actions, and in it are the representatives of the Valencian Agency for Security and Emergency Response -which depends on the Ministry of Justice of Gabriela Bravo-, of the firefighters or of the affected municipalities. For the Civil Guard, the forced transfer of the PMA “unequivocally means a reduction in its management capabilities”, since during that time “there is no direct view of the fire and the information does not flow with the agility that it does under relatively normal conditions.
That is to say, while the PMA is disassembled -coinciding with the worst hours of the fire- “it is not possible to receive or transmit communications.” And it was not fully operational again until 5:30 p.m., almost an hour after a driver on the A23 gave the first warning. At 4:33 p.m., a call is received on the 112 Emergency telephone number to alert that the fire is one kilometer from the highway, which runs near the train track. However, the content of the call was not “properly” recorded or transmitted, so it did not reach the WFP.
At 5:31 p.m. the mayor of Barracas received a call, in which he reported that the flames were already one kilometer from the railway line. This time the call was registered, but “it did not lead to the adoption of any type of measure.” Furthermore, in the transcript of the conversation that the driver has with the Adif Traffic Regulation Center at 5:54 p.m., the worker transmits with concern that there is more and more smoke and she sees flames “in the distance”. The response she receives: “They have not warned us, neither Civil Protection nor anyone from the fire department that it affects the road.”
After a few minutes and within the framework of that same conversation, the driver warns her interlocutor: “I’m seeing the fire next to the track.” In fact, the first notice that arrives at 112 Emergencies about what is really happening on the train does not come until after 6:00 p.m., after informing the Forest Fire Prevention Center on the one hand and, on the other, the Center for Protection and Security of Adif. Chaos engulfed the train when several passengers got out of the convoy and applied the emergency brake, which prevented the engineer from reversing.
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