Tenerife continues to burn as crews battle wildfires

Tenerife continues to burn as crews battle wildfires

August 18, 2023

Tenerife continues to burn with crews facing crucial few hours to contain wildfire as it rages out of control on holiday island

  • Fires have been burning in Tenerife since Tuesday, forcing mass evacuations
  • READ MORE Tenerife wildfires maps: Where have fires hit the Spanish island?

Firefighters in the Canary Islands are still battling dense smoke and high temperatures to control the worst wildfire in decades on Tenerife, officials said Friday.

About 450 firefighters and soldiers backed by 16 aircraft were battling the blaze which has so far destroyed some 3,800 hectares (9,400 acres).

Regional President Fernando Clavijo said today’s efforts would be crucial to containing the fire as the air quality in several municipalities remains hazardous.

Some 4,500 people have been evacuated and thousands more advised not to leave their homes since the fire started in the north of the island late on Tuesday. 

Television images and videos posted on social media have shown flames coming down a hill close to houses and a massive cloud of smoke rising from the area. 

Candelaria mayor María Concepción Brito Núñez told Spanish National Television that firefighters complained that the water being dumped on the flames was evaporating before hitting the ground because of the high temperatures.

No injuries have been reported so far.

Military firefighters battle a forest fire on August 17, 2023 raging in the northeastern part of the Canary island of Tenerife

Residents of the town of Aguamansa watch the wildfires rage out of control on the island of Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain August 17, 2023

The army’s Military Emergency Unit said that dense clouds of smoke were impairing visibility for firefighters and preventing many water-carrying aircraft from getting close.

Army Capt. Rafael San José told Spanish National Television that some progress had been made overnight in stopping the fire’s spread but that rising temperatures during the day would increase difficulties.

READ MORE: Thousands evacuated on Tenerife as ‘worst wildfires in 40 years’ rage out of control with ash turning sea black and smoke visible from space – as top tourist area is closed off

The fire is located in a steep and craggy mountain area with pine trees, with several municipalities on its flanks, including El Rosario, Arafo and Candelaria to the east, and La Orotava to the west. 

Access for firefighters is extremely difficult, but favourable conditions Friday in El Rosario let authorities lift the confinement call for half of the 3,800 residents there.

The Canary Islands have been in drought for most of the past few years, just like most of mainland Spain. 

The islands have recorded below-average rainfall in recent years, because of changing weather patterns impacted by climate change.

The north of the island was forecast to have a maximum temperature of 30 degrees Celsius (84 F) Friday with light winds, (20 kph/12 mph) but temperatures were set to rise over the weekend.

Regional government meteorologist Vicky Palma told reporters that temperatures of up to 34 degrees Celsius (93 F) will be reached Saturday in the wildfire area, and temperatures will continue to rise on Monday and Tuesday.

The flames cover a perimeter of 40 kilometers (25 miles) encircling some 4,000 hectares (10,000 acres) of land. 

Nearly 600 firefighters and Spanish army soldiers are in the area, which is in the northeast of the island, some 20 kilometers (12 miles) away from its main town, Santa Cruz.

Tenerife is one of Europe’s main tourist destinations. Its tourism office stressed Thursday that the most important tourist areas are far from the fire. 

Business continues as usual in accommodation establishments, beaches and other tourist sites near the coast and in the midlands, the office said.

But access to the Teide National Park, the most important tourist attraction in Tenerife after the beaches, was closed Thursday evening and all tourist facilities around the Teide volcano area, including accommodation, were to be evacuated.

Clavijo claimed the fire was the worst in 40 years. He said the combination of extreme temperatures and the fire had turned the area into a virtual oven.

A helicopter drops water on the flames as the fire advances through the forest toward the town of El Rosario in Tenerife, Spain on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023

Smoke covers La Orotava Valley as the forest fire affecting the area continues to burn land, in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain, 18 August 2023

Tenerife wildfires are burning ‘out of control’ forcing officials to close off a top tourist area and evacuate more villages and holiday homes. Pictured: Firefighters work to extinguish the forest fire burning across the hills of the Canary Island of Tenerife on 16 August

The seven-island archipelago is located off the northwest coast of Africa and southwest of mainland Spain.

More than 2,000 people were evacuated in a wildfire on the nearby La Palma island last month that affected some 4,500 hectares (11,000 acres).

According to the latest figures from the European Forest Fire Information System, Spain heads the list of EU countries affected by wildfires so far this years, with 75,000 hectares ( 185,000 acres) burned, ahead of Italy and Greece.

Spain accounted for almost 40% of the nearly 800,00 hectares (2 million acres) burned in the European Union in 2022, the EU agency said.

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