Tenerife forest fire still out of control: Worst in 40 years

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fire Tenerife

SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE – Tenerife is grappling with its most catastrophic forest fire in the past 40 years. For three days, five separate blazes have scorched the island, with no end in sight.

Emergency services have yet to gain control over any of the five fires. To date, they have consumed an expanse of 3,797 hectares spanning a perimeter of 41.9 kilometres. Evacuations were mandated again on Thursday night in the towns of El Sauzal and La Matanza, adding to the 3,069 residents previously displaced. Additionally, 3,820 residents remain isolated in La Esperanza. The fire has now impacted eight municipalities on the island.

Unprecedented blaze scale

What began as a minor fire in Arafo and Candelaria has escalated into one of the largest conflagrations the Canary Islands have ever seen. The fire has spread to several areas, predominantly affecting the north of Tenerife.

Smoke pillars ascend to 6 kilometres 

During an update, Meteorologist Vicky Palma stressed the fire’s extraordinary intensity. “Smoke columns have soared between 3 and 6 kilometres high, even during night-time, which is highly unusual,” she noted. This phenomenon has cast a shadow over Santa Cruz and La Laguna.

Fire influences weather patterns

There’s growing concern about the fire influencing local weather. The blaze generates its microclimate, affecting adjacent regions. Elevated smoke particles can spark additional fires when they land, exacerbating the situation.

“Perhaps the Canary Islands’ most challenging fire”

Fernando Clavijo, the Canarias president, termed the fire as potentially “the most intricate we’ve encountered in the Canary Islands, especially in recent decades.” Adverse weather conditions, amplified by the challenging terrain, hamper containment efforts.

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A volatile blaze

Pedro Martínez, the lead firefighter, highlighted the fire’s erratic behaviour, noting that tactical approaches are continually evolving, centring on defence. Clavijo emphasised prioritising human safety, followed by safeguarding material assets and minimising the destruction of forested and agricultural lands.

Also read: Forest fires in Spain devastate three times as many hectares as last year

The response team grew from 200 members during the night to 226 by morning. Additionally, the authorities have mobilised 16 aircraft, supplemented by two coordination planes.

Rosa Dávila, President of the Island Government of Tenerife, commended the evacuated inhabitants and those confined in La Esperanza for their cooperation. Overnight, a vast team of more than 200 individuals, alongside emergency and logistics crews, endeavoured to control the inferno.

A ray of optimism

There’s a hint of optimism amidst the adversity. Clavijo confirmed that the fire exhibited “usual” behaviour the previous night, enabling increased efforts from emergency teams. The current objective is to stabilise the situation in La Esperanza, allowing resources to be redirected to the island’s north. Decisions regarding lifting movement restrictions in El Rosario and La Esperanza will be made later today.

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