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Spain fights raging wildfires, firefighting budgets cut

Pedro Armestre / AFP - Getty Images

Firefighters work to put out a wildfire in Tabuyo del Monte near Leon, Spain, on Aug. 20. Numerous wildfires have broken out across Spain in the sweltering heat in recent weeks, an extra headache for authorities struggling to get the country out of its financial crisis and recession.

Pedro Armestre / AFP - Getty Images

A firefighter walks on the road while dark clouds from a wildfire billow behind him in Tabuyo del Monte near Leon on Aug. 20.

Pedro Armestre / AFP - Getty Images

Firefighters work to put out a wildfire in Tabuyo del Monte near Leon on Aug. 20.

Pedro Armestre / AFP - Getty Images

Firefighters work to put out a wildfire in Tabuyo del Monte near Leon on Aug. 20.

Reuters -- Spain is facing its worst wildfires in a decade, after more than three times as much forest has burned so far this year than in the whole of 2011, while firefighting budgets have been slashed by up to a half as part of the drive to cut public spending.

With the weather in Spain dryer and hotter than last year, it was not immediately clear whether the increase in wildfires this year was directly related to the cuts to firefighting budgets. But firefighters themselves were sure the two were linked and called for more investment in essential equipment and better compensation for the risks they face.

"There were firefighters who could not get involved with the job of fighting the fires because they didn't even have gloves or boots," the newspaper quoted Antonio del Rio, of the Catalan firefighters' branch of the UGT trade  union, as saying.

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Pedro Armestre / AFP - Getty Images

Firefighters work to put out a wildfire in Tabuyo del Monte near Leon on Aug. 20.

Pedro Armestre / AFP - Getty Images

A man walks on a path with a shovel while clouds from a wildfire billow behind him in Tabuyo del Monte near Leon on Aug. 20.