SANTA CRUZ DE LA PALMA – Last night a forest fire broke out in the northwest of the Canary Island of La Palma. The government of the islands has declared a state of emergency on level 2.
The authorities have evacuated the centre of Tijarafe. The fire broke out in the municipality of Puntagorda, with a population of 2,300. Furthermore, the flames have so far destroyed an estimated 4.500 hectares of land, including 13 homes and evacuated more than 2.021 residents. This has been confirmed by the President of the Canary Islands, Fernando Clavijo.
📢Debido al avance del incendio forestal declarado en Puntagorda, se procede a la #EVACUACIÓN del núcleo poblacional de Tijarafe.
➡️ Las personas que necesiten albergue deben dirigirse al pabellón de Los Llanos de Aridane
➡️Sigan las indicaciones de las autoridades pic.twitter.com/UZkIdryYcZ
— 1-1-2 Canarias (@112canarias) July 15, 2023
At the beginning of Saturday afternoon, the Emergency Situations Coordination Centre announced the evacuation of Tijarafe town centre (the neighbouring municipality) due to the progress of the fire.
Despite everything, the president of the Canary Islands, who took office earlier this week, was relatively optimistic. “If the weather is in our favour, it seems that with the resources currently in place we could in principle get it under control today (Saturday), but the wind is very changeable, strong gusts are expected and we have to be careful,” said Fernando Clavijo.
The fire started near the LP-1 road. The emergency centre 112 of the Canary Islands received the first reports at 1.05 am. Then, at 6.12 am, the island administration requested that the emergency be raised to level 2 and the operation be taken over by the Canary Islands.
Fire rages in a rural area
The area where the flames rage is mainly rural. It is dotted with crops, scrub and pine trees, and is also home to houses. Seven aircraft are currently involved in the firefighting operations: three helicopters from the Canary Islands and four from the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge.
Military emergency unit
The UME military emergency unit has now joined the firefighting activities. The Guardia Civil has reported that six Civil Security patrols, one traffic patrol, one Seprona patrol, two officers in the advanced command centre and a Guardia Civil helicopter carrying out coordination tasks are also participating.
Like many parts of Spain, the islands experienced a heat wave over the past week that reached the highest temperatures in all of Spain on Wednesday. The towns of Aldea de San Nicolás and San Bartolomé de Tirajana, both in Gran Canaria, registered 41.8 and 40.6 degrees Celsius respectively.
The island of La Palma could not escape this phenomenon: the municipality of Puntagorda had to deal with 40.3 degrees Celsius. The island of La Palma, with just over 75,000 inhabitants, has one of the densest forest areas of the archipelago. The last major fire occurred in late August 2020 in the municipality of El Paso, barely a year before the volcano erupted in that same area. For the latest news, follow #IFPuntagorda on Twitter
— Ministerio del Interior (@interiorgob) July 15, 2023