Wildfire in Gran Canaria worst to hit Spain in six years

The blaze has begun to die down, according to authorities, after razing 10,000 hectares and forcing 9,000 people from their homes

Fire near Agaete in Gran Canaria on Monday night.
Fire near Agaete in Gran Canaria on Monday night.Borja Suárez / REUTERS

The fire that broke out in Gran Canaria on Saturday has begun to die down according to Ángel Víctor Torres, the regional premier of the Canary Islands. Some 200 firefighters worked into the night to combat the fire, while 247 members of Civil Protection were on hand to assist the affected neighborhoods.

A notable drop in temperatures and improved wind conditions have helped firefighters contain the blaze at various points but the fire remains unapproachable in several areas. On Monday, the perimeter of the affected area grew from 60 to 75 kilometers.

The flames originated in the municipality of Valleseco and burned out of control for three days

The blaze has razed 10,000 hectares of land since it broke out on Saturday, making it the worst fire to hit Spain in six years. The flames originated in the municipality of Valleseco and burned out of control for three days, fanned by the high temperatures and poor condition of the mountains, which are overrun with weeds and dry vegetation, explained Agustín Argulo, a forestry technician from the Castilla y León region.

The fire forced the evacuation of around 9,000 people from more than 50 towns and villages on the Canary Island, located off the northwestern coast of Africa. From the cemetery in Monaña Alta, locals gathered to watch the fire burn. “It looks like it is moving slowly, but it is devouring the entire mountain,” said Paca Déniz, who had just been evacuated and was watching as the flames closed in on his home.

A member of the public with the initials A. M. has been evacuated twice: the first time was 10 days ago when a fire broke out in Artenara, and a second time on Saturday afternoon. “I’ve moved past rage and now I am at the stage of resignation and acceptance: the disaster is done, but right now we have to be calm,” he said.

Coralia González was also evacuated because of the fire. She has a cheese farm in Lomo del Palo in Gáldar, and, like her mother and grandmother, her livelihood depends on the products she makes thanks to her 111 sheep and 17 goats. She had to leave the animals in their enclosure and doesn’t know if they have survived.

Raúl García from Tejada saw his land – and livelihood – go up in flames in the first blaze, and, like A. M., was evacuated for a second time on Monday. He and his family were taken to a shelter in San Mateo, where volunteers from the local council have not only offered a place to sleep but also food and company.

The blaze has razed hundreds of hectares of Tamadaba Natural Park, which is considered one of the best-protected reserves on the island. Firefighters were, however, able to stop the blaze from reaching the Inagua National Reserve.

If conditions continue to improve, some of the evacuated locals may be allowed to return to their homes, the head of the local government of Gran Canaria, Antonio Morales, told radio network Cadena SER.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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