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Fire in Valencia area sees 2,000 people forced to abandon homes

Flames and smoke cut off a number of roads in the area

A helicopter flies over a burning fire in the Valencia province on Monday.
A helicopter flies over a burning fire in the Valencia province on Monday.JOSE JORDAN (AFP)

Some 2,000 people were evacuated from their homes on Monday as a wildfire blazed out of control around 60 kilometers northwest of the city of Valencia, in the interior of the province.

The government road safety agency DGT said that flames and smoke had cut off a number of roads in the Los Serranos area.

Some 350 firefighters had worked overnight to try to bring the blazes around the villages of Chulilla, Gestalgar, Sort de Chera, Pedralaba, Bugarra and Casinos under control. A government spokesman said the firefighters’ job had been made more difficult by strong winds, which were fanning the flames.

The Spanish division of the Red Cross set up provisional camps to house those evacuated from their homes. Some 240 slept in the facilities overnight. Another 200 people were put up at a school in the area.

People in Chulilla had alerted the authorities to the outbreak of the fire around 4pm on Sunday, and tried to fight it themselves with sticks and hoes.

“It was horrible, the smoke stopped us from seeing anything,” said Carlos Martínez, a local resident.

Martínez and his partner, Amparo Esteve, have a six-month-old baby. “I left our house because I have a baby, otherwise I wouldn’t have gone” she said.

Martínez lamented the fact that several century-old pine trees that had been spared in a fire in the area in 1994 had been burned to the ground.

Juan Mire, 82, and his wife Isabel, 78, also spent Sunday night at the school. “We came in an enormous bus, and we haven’t slept,” Isabel said. “I didn’t even have time to take a comb with me. I only managed to get my medication.”

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