CANDELARIA – Early Wednesday, a forest fire erupted between the towns of Arafo and Candelaria on the Canary Island of Tenerife, prompting the evacuation of four neighbourhoods and the temporary shutdown of two major roads
The blaze ignited around midnight in the Arafo mountains, in the island’s northeast, impacting both Arafo and Candelaria municipalities. While the fire has consumed 130 hectares thus far, Rosa Dávila, the Chairwoman of the Tenerife Island Council, warns that the affected area might be considerably larger.
Imágenes tomadas por los agentes de la #BRIFOR
— Cabildo de Tenerife (@CabildoTenerife) August 16, 2023
Residents from Arrate, Chivisaye, Media Montaña, and Ajafoña have been evacuated, impacting five families. In addition, the mountain region of Las Laguneras, which includes a campsite and a restaurant, was also cleared.
Preemptive action amid growing concern
Fernando Clavijo, the President of the Canary Islands, announced plans for preventive evacuations of residences beyond the 3-kilometre mark on the TF 523 road due to the Tenerife forest fire. The island’s authorities have shut down stretches of the TF 523 between Las Lagunetas and El Portillo. The same counts for the TF 523 Carretera Los Loros, as stated on their social media channels.
Elevated emergency response
Given the fire’s expansive nature and a plea from Tenerife’s island council, officials have raised the emergency response to level 2. On Wednesday around 1.00 pm there were quite a few open fronts. The advance of the fire to the north on two fronts is of most concern to authorities. Work is now on stopping the advance of the flames in this direction. The fire has already entered the municipality of Santa Úrsula on the other side of the mountaintop through an area of ravines that is difficult to access.
Challenging terrain hampers efforts
María Concepción Brito Núñez, Candelaria’s mayor, highlighted the “very complex” topography of the blaze-stricken area. This complicated nocturnal operations for ground crews. A joint force of 150 personnel from the Tenerife Island Council, the local fire brigade, and volunteer firefighters from Güímar and La Laguna is on the scene, supported by eleven aerial units. Additionally, the Military Emergency Relief Unit (UME) has been deployed.
From the helicopters, firefighters experience problems with water releases at some points. Due to the high temperatures, the water evaporates before it comes into contact with the flames.
Sparse populations affected, with growing concerns
The mayor underscored that the blaze predominantly affected less densely populated rural regions. These have sporadic residences, farmlands, and animal husbandries bearing the brunt. However, the threat of the fire reaching neighbouring municipalities looms large. And given the fire’s intensity, Brito Núñez anticipates a multi-day hiatus before evacuees can safely return.
Residents were still reeling from the Virgin Mary’s Assumption festivities. These concluded on Tuesday evening, when the fire broke out, plunging the community into “anger and despair.”
Rising fire risks
🔥Semana con riesgo de incendios muy alto o extremo en buena parte del país debido a las altas temperaturas, baja humedad, escasez de precipitaciones y una vegetación muy seca a estas alturas del verano. Incrementa el riesgo la posibilidad de tormentas secas, con caída de rayos. pic.twitter.com/xMejCYKxkV
— AEMET (@AEMET_Esp) August 14, 2023
A recent advisory from Spain’s meteorological agency cautioned of elevated fire risks this summer. Aemet attributes this to soaring temperatures, dwindling humidity levels, scanty rainfall, and parched vegetation.
Related: Large forest fire in La Palma