TENERIFE – Control of a spreading wildfire in north-eastern Tenerife appears to be eluded by local authorities, despite a full day of extinguishing efforts. Six municipalities have now been affected by the fire.
Within 24 hours the fire has already devoured 1,800 hectares of land and although the expansion is now somewhat slowing down, the situation remains worrying. According to reports, the fire has reached a circumference of 22 kilometres and fighting it remains challenging.
Fernando Clavijo, the president of the Canary Islands, admits that the current conditions are worrying. He emphasizes that the next few hours will be crucial in the fight against the fire. Rosa Dávila, President of the Council of Tenerife, said the fire has spread as expected and is extremely difficult to extinguish.
The fire started in the early night from Tuesday to Wednesday in a dried-out nature reserve northeast of volcano El Teide in the municipality of Afaro. There, the rugged terrain with ravines complicated the extinguishing efforts. The fire quickly spread to the municipalities of Candelaria, El Rosario, La Victoria, and Santa Úrsula.
Flames reach a vulnerable area
This Thursday, the flames reached La Orotava, a particularly vulnerable area as it boasts 118.9 square kilometres of green areas and national parks, such as Teide National Park. Nature in the municipalities of Arafo and Candelaria has been particularly hard hit. The forest fire service is aiming all efforts at keeping the advancing fire away from inhabited areas.
— Luis Delgado (@LDPERAL) August 16, 2023
Meteorologists expect the wind to keep the fire moving eastward. Some preventive evacuations have already taken place, with about 150 residents having to leave their homes. Several roads are closed to traffic. Sources of the emergency apparatus have reported that evacuations continued last night in the municipality of El Rosario. Furthermore, in addition to the neighbourhood of Las Barreras, authorities ordered the evacuation of El Preventorio Street from the TF-24 intersection to the recreational area of Las Raices. There are also concerns that the flames could threaten the historic town of La Orotava.
Older people with breathing problems and eye irritation
In the municipality of Candelaria, health services had to take care of people, especially the elderly, with “some respiratory problems, also some eye irritation,” said Mayor María Concepción Brito. For this reason, Brito has urged citizens to go out “as little as possible”.
Airports remain operational
According to Clavijo, about 200 firefighters and emergency responders remained in action throughout the night. The authorities resumed air support for the extinguishing work immediately in the morning. A special unit of the Spanish army has been called to set up barriers to protect the southern Corona Forestal Natural Park. Despite the seriousness of the situation, both airports in Tenerife remain operational.
Previous fires in the Canary Islands
This is not the only such incident this summer. A month ago, La Palma was hit by a devastating wildfire. Here, thousands of people had to be evacuated and more than 4500 hectares of land were destroyed. The heatwave and the wind direction were the causes.