Wildfire in southern Spain spreads, forcing 800 people from their homes

The AP-7 highway was cut off to traffic along a 15 kilometer stretch in Málaga province while 250 firefighters battled the flames, which affected Estepona, Benahavís, Jubrique and Genalguacil

Around 200 firefighters from all over Andalusia are battling a large blaze in Sierra Bermeja, Málaga.
Around 200 firefighters from all over Andalusia are battling a large blaze in Sierra Bermeja, Málaga.Protección Civil Estepona
Firefighter killed during efforts to control wildfires in Málaga province

Nearly 800 people had been evacuated from their homes by Thursday in Spain’s southern Málaga province due to a wildfire affecting the municipalities of Estepona, Benahavís, Jubrique and Genalguacil, said Andalusian emergency services.

The fire broke out in the mountains of Sierra Bermeja, within the municipal limits of Jubrique. Preventive evacuations took place in Estepona’s Forest Hill and Las Abejeras residential areas in the early hours of Thursday, and by the afternoon the flames had reached Benahavís, where a residential development called Montemayor was also evacuated, the regional daily Diario Sur reported.

The uneven terrain and changing winds hampered the firefighting effort in an area that is also home to a forest of Spanish fir (pinsapo), a natural space that is considered of particular environmental value in southern Spain along with the nearby Sierra de las Nieves.

There were road closures on the AP-7 highway to Cádiz between Kilometers 157 and 171, as well as on the provincial roads MA-8301 and MA-8302.

Video footage of the fire burning in Málaga.Photo: EUROPA PRESS | Video: EUROPA PRESS

Around 250 firefighters, some brought in from the provinces of Cádiz, Córdoba, Granada, Jaén and Seville, were fighting the blaze with support from 29 aircraft, including a coordination plane to define the fire’s perimeter, seven helicopters and two amphibious planes, according to the regional daily.

Emergency services took more than 140 calls starting at 9.37pm on Wednesday from citizens who had seen the flames.

The police knocked on the door of Víctor, 34, and Lorena, 25, in the middle of the night, the latter recalls. “Everyone had said the fire was under control or that it was really far away and wouldn’t reach all the way here,” said Víctor. “Then suddenly we were told we had to go, that we were not at risk of getting burned ourselves, but had to go and only had a few minutes to collect important items.”

Provincial authorities at the firefighting coordination command center on Thursday.
Provincial authorities at the firefighting coordination command center on Thursday. DIPUTACIÓN (Europa Press)

No official statement as to the size of the wildfire has been made at this time. But sources participating in the effort told Diario Sur that this fire makes the one that broke out in the same area in July of last year, and which burned 400 hectares, “look small.”

The magnitude of the fire could be seen from the coast of Marbella, located 50 kilometers away, where a dense cloud was beginning to cover the clear skies at around 5.30am. “I got home from work at 10.30pm [on Wednesday] and there was already ash on the road,” said Sabrina, 32, a pharmacist.

“The fire extended through the night,” confirmed the mayor of Genalguacil, Miguel Ángel Herrera, on the regional television station Canal Sur. He said that the flames had come dangerously near some people’s homes, but did not affect the village in the end.

Summer wildfires are a recurring problem in Spain, where there were large blazes this year in places such as Ávila. And in the Canary Islands, a project is underway to document the rebirth of a highly valuable natural area that was reduced to ashes two years ago.

English version by Susana Urra.

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