This extremely serious forest fire in the Canaries arrived with a heat wave and is still unchecked, despite the intervention of hundreds of firefighters.
Hundreds of firefighters remained mobilized in the night of Monday to Tuesday on the tourist island of Gran Canaria, to fight against “the most important fire” which occurred this year in Spain, according to the government.
The President of the Canaries, Angel Victor Torres, has called it an “environmental drama” because it touches protected natural areas of the island located in the Atlantic, off Morocco.
” Heat wave “
“This is a big, extremely serious forest fire, which happened with a heat wave” and is still not controlled, said at around 11:30 pm (local, 9:00 pm GMT) Mr Torres when a press conference broadcast on television.
The perimeter of this forest fire, which occurred Saturday in the mountainous centre of the island off the coast of Morocco, “increases” and “it is estimated that 10,000 hectares are affected,” lamented the emergency services on their Twitter account.
More than 9,000 people have already been evacuated from their homes, but no injuries have been reported.
“We are going to conquer this fire and what we want is that when it comes to an end, we do not have to deplore victims,” said Torres.
“This is probably the biggest fire we’ve had in Spain since the beginning of the year,” commented Agriculture Minister Luis Planas.
14 air assets
A thousand firefighters and agents were mobilized on the ground Monday, as well as 14 air assets.
The planes dumped “a million litres of water” throughout the day, according to the emergency services.
Two more water bombers helicopters must arrive on Tuesday, confirmed the Minister of Agriculture.
The high temperatures, the wind and the rains of ashes that can cause new fire starts make this fire particularly difficult to fight.
Its main front is in the Tamadaba Natural Park, a pine forest among the wildest areas of Gran Canaria.
“This is the main green lung of the island, (…) the environmental jewel of Gran Canaria,” said Lourdes Hernandez, a fire specialist from the WWF environmental protection organization, interviewed by AFP.
“It’s not a fire like it was in recent years,” she says, highlighting “the virulence of fire, the speed at which the flames spread and the intensity of the fronts.”
Tourism not affected
The interior of Gran Canaria, with very diverse landscapes and micro-climates, is popular with hikers, although the bulk of tourists frequent the beaches of the island, the second busiest in the Canary Islands.
The Canary Islands last year welcomed 13.7 million tourists, especially British and German, and tourism accounted in 2017 for 35% of GDP and 40% of jobs in the archipelago, according to the employer organization Exceltur.
The regional government also stressed in a statement that tourism was not affected by the fire because “no tourist complex feels the effects.”
Still, fires of this magnitude will multiply, a consequence of global warming, said Mr Planas.
Last week, a wave of fires hit Greece, forcing other countries including Spain to send reinforcements to fight them. At the end of July, Portugal saw its forests burn.
This fire is the third in ten days to hit the island of Gran Canaria. Firefighters were unable to completely extinguish the larger one, which covered 1,500 hectares when the new fire broke out.