Firefighters on Friday managed to contain a wildfire inside the natural park of Montgó just before it reached the harbor of Xàbia, a popular seaside resort in northern Alicante province.
More than 200 people had to be evacuated from their homes during the night, joining around 1,000 residents of nearby Dénia, who were also taken to safety.
Preliminary estimates talk about 439 hectares of burnt land, of which 413 are forest.
While the flames were not fully under control on Friday morning, the focal points of the fire have been located and contained.
The fire is causing incalculable loss to the region’s biodiversity
“It looked like lava,” said Fernanda, a local resident who saw the blaze come down from Cape San Antonio to the cove of Tangó, located very close to Xàbia harbor.
“The flames were spectacular, everything was filling up with smoke... we were really scared,” said Adam McRae, 14, who was forced to evacuate his home at 6am along with his father.
Xàbia is a popular seaside resort where over half the population is foreign-born, and with very strong British and German communities.
The central government has sent out support aircraft to assist Valencian authorities, whose six helicopters and four “Air Tractor” water aircraft were proving insufficient to tackle the fire. Over 200 firefighters, including especially trained military personnel, are on location to suppress the flames.
While residents of Dénia are saying that the fire started in several places at the same time, suggesting the possibility of arson, authorities say it is still too early to determine the causes.
The nature preserve of Cape San Antonio, located inside Montgó park, is one of the most important natural areas in the Spanish Mediterranean and home to a large variety of plant and marine life. Large swathes of this territory have now been burnt to the ground, causing incalculable loss to the region’s biodiversity.
“It was a terrifying sight,” said a local police officer as he tried to get the evacuees organized. The mayor of Xàbia, José Xulvi, called it “a monumental disaster.”