Corporate Carbon Offset Company Accidentally Starts Devastating Wildfire

This is the second forest fire started by Land Life in a month.
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Europa Press News / Contributor via Getty Images

On Monday, Dutch reforestation company Land Life started what has become a 35,000 acre forest fire in Spain. 

The fire started in Bubierca, a province of Zaragoza, the capital of autonomous community Aragon, when a Land Life contractor planting trees accidentally set off sparks that ignited nearby plant life. 

"The fire started while one of our contractors was using a retro-spider excavator to prepare the soil to plant trees later this winter," Land Life said in a statement on Thursday. "The operators alerted the emergency services. The emergency teams are working non-stop to control the fire and have fortunately established the fire perimeter. Nonetheless, we are devastated by the latest estimate that the damage will be around 14,000 hectares," or roughly 35,000 acres.”

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“While a contractor was working on forest restoration in the area, a spark from one of the excavators started the fire,” the company wrote in an earlier press release.

Land Life is a carbon offsetting firm, which means that it plants trees to, in theory, make up for the carbon emissions of polluting industries. It’s not clear how many acres Land Life has actually planted trees in—one blog post suggested the company aimed to plant around 20,000 acres between 2020-2021. 

This forest fire has not likely wiped out the lion’s share of Land Life’s work, but it is also not the first forest fire caused by Land Life—on June 20, it sparked another inferno that wiped out 20 hectares. (49 acres). "It is not good that it happens once and that they continue working," the mayor of Bubierca told local media. "The Government of Aragon, instead of recommending that the activity cease, should have prohibited it, because there is time to repopulate these hills, where fire breaks out as soon as they throw iron on the stone."

Land Life describes itself as "technology-driven," saying on LinkedIn that it uses tech "such as drones, artificial intelligence and monitoring applications." It also appears to have dabbled in blockchain tech, having raised €3.5 million in 2018 to develop "proprietary technology across the nature reforestation value chain." The company’s website itself is devoid of any further mention of blockchain technology, but the 2018 press release announcing the Series A funding mentions "patented planting technologies, autonomous planting, remote monitoring and blockchain verification."

The fire has forced authorities to order the evacuation of five neighboring towns, as well as a nursing home. In total, around 2,000 people had to be evacuated. Javier Lambán, the president of Aragon, said the incident is “serious and concerning,” according to local media.

“Even though the situation is better than the worst forecasts, we maintain all alerts active because weather changes could cause activations on different fronts and the best is to act based on worst case scenarios,” Lambán reportedly said