Major forest fire in Spain gets out of hand

by Lorraine Williamson
major forest fires

PROVINCIA DE CáCERES As the country suffers from extremely high temperatures, the provinces of Cáceres and Salamanca are dealing with a major cross-border forest fire that broke out on Monday in the Las Hurdes region of Cáceres. 

From there, the fire spread in a northeasterly direction. In Las Hurdes, residents of six towns were still unable to return to their homes. Since yesterday, the ‘most unfavourable area’ has been located due to the rapid spread of flames in Castilla y León in the Sierra de Francia (Salamanca). However, the flank bordering the province of Salamanca is in bad shape, according to the Junta de Extremadura. 

Major forest fire

Twelve land units, two planes and five corps are working to get the fire under control. Furthermore, it also threatens the Sierra de Francia nature reserve,More than 3,000 hectares have already gone up in flames in Extremadura. And in Salamanca the flames blackened over 2,500 hectares. 

On Tuesday, the residents of Monsagro were evacuated due to the proximity of the flames and the large smoke development. On Wednesday there were concerns for the residents of Serradilla del Llano as the front of the fire moved in an all-devastating way in their direction. 

“Extremely virulent behaviour” 

The day was very complicated for the fire service who felt helpless in the extreme heat and a strong wind that constantly changed direction. Late in the morning, sources from the Ministry of the Environment of Castilla y León acknowledged that the fire “displayed an extremely virulent behaviour, with very extreme rates of spread”. The forecasts were not very encouraging as strong winds were also expected for the night. 

The fire affects the Batuecas – Sierra de Francia Natural Park. Authorities saw themselves forced to evacuate the  municipality of Monsagro. Still unable to return to their homes, the 400 residents are staying in Ciudad Rodrigo (border town with Portugal) in the municipal pavilion, a school building and a student residence. 

Meanwhile, in Serradilla del Llano, flames are spreading uncontrollably. In the late afternoon, the mayor of the village was convinced that the evacuation of the 160 inhabitants would not be necessary. “I don’t think the fire will come, there’s a river in between and then many miles without trees,” he told ABC. However, he admitted that nothing is impossible because the situation was “very complicated” and “out of control”. 

Fires in Portugal 

The neighbouring country of Portugal is also experiencing the hell of numerous major forest fires at the same time. The very high temperatures even claimed a fatality. Firefighters found the charred body of a 50-year-old woman on a corn plantation. It happened in Boa Vista, on the outskirts of Leiria, halfway between Lisbon and Porto. A terrible discovery, in the middle of the countryside, that scared the neighbours and brought the Portuguese back to 2017. Then 66 people died in the great fire in Pedrógao Grande. 

The Institute for the Conservation of Nature and Forests of Portugal gave another sad figure. The fire destroyed more than 20,000 hectares in the neighbouring country since the beginning of the year. Not only that, but the vast majority of them burned in the past week. This figure will undoubtedly increase as the fires are still out of control at several points. 

In continental Portugal, no region is without risk: from Viana do Castelo, next to Galicia; to the Algarve, bordering Andalucia. And even the capital Lisbon is on the alert, witnessing the closure of the playgrounds in the Olivais district. 

The most severe situation is in Leiria and the surrounding area. Authorities already speak of “devastation”. On Wednesday afternoon, the Civil Defense of Portugal registered 19 active fires across the territory. Portugal deployed the army to help the fire brigade and the population. There are more than 3,500 firefighters and soldiers fighting the devastating fire tongues. 

Heatwave doesn’t help 

What makes the circumstances for the firefighters even more difficult is that the heatwave is now in its critical phase. The new temperature record is 45.6 degrees in Almonte (Huelva), closely followed by 45.4 degrees in Olivenza (Badajoz) or 45 in the capital Badajoz. Aemet positioned Extremadura as the second most affected community in the country after Andalucia. Morón de la Frontera (Seville) took ‘fourth place’ with 44.8º. 

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