The environment authority is investigating a fire that broke out at a camping site in Mellieħa on Thursday damaging a number of trees.

The fire, in the L-Aħrax woodland of Mellieħa, was stopped from spreading by the Civil Protection Department in the evening after it was flagged by hunters who frequent the area.  

An eyewitness told Times of Malta that the site appeared to have been abandoned by  group of campers who had not properly extinguished their fire. Litter, and some items left behind at the site, helped spread the flames to the surrounding pine trees which also caught fire.  

A source at the Environment and Resources Authority said that an investigation was underway to try and establish who was behind the fire, but so far there were no leads. 

Mellieħa councillor Ivan Castillo said no permits had been issued for camping in the area in recent weeks as a health precaution for the COVID-19 outbreak.  

In June last year, a fire in the nearby Miżieb woodland devastated around 180,000 square metres of the forested area.  

Hundreds of Aleppo pine, olive and gum trees, as well as blue-leaved wattle, an invasive species known locally as Akaċja, had been reduced to ash in the fire with the exact cause never identified.  

Castillo said it was only thanks to the quick actions of a group of hunters that Thursday’s fire had not been far more serious.  

It was high time that parks and woodlands were given their own rangers to prevent further destruction, he said.  

“This would not only create new green jobs, but also protect the few green spaces we have left,” Castillo said. 

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