The fire, which broke out on Wednesday afternoon in a dense forest in the nearby municipality of Pujerra in Sierra Bermeja – inland from the Costa del Sol towns of Estepona and Marbella – continued to rage throughout Thursday and the early hours of Friday.
Three firefighters suffered burns to 25 percent of their bodies, according to Andalusian president Juanma Moreno. His presidential councillor Elías Bendodo reported on Wednesday night that the fire was advancing at 30 metres per minute.
In the early hours of Thursday June 9th, authorities in the upmarket municipality of Benahavís, where 5,000 of its 8,000 residents are foreign (mostly British), decided to evacuate between 2,000 and 3,000 inhabitants as a precautionary measure.
Over a hundred more were also evacuated from the Marbella Club Golf, Montemayor and Benahavís Hills residential complexes, Júzcar and Pujerra.
On Thursday, the Sierra Bermeja fire formed a flammagenitus or fire cloud, a phenomenon which prevented helicopters from extinguishing the flames from above.
“A difficult night in Sierra Bermeja,” wrote Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on Thursday on Twitter, thanking rescuers and firefighters for their work and expressing “solidarity with those residents affected” by the blaze.
By Thursday night, most Benahavís residents were allowed to return to their homes.
On Friday morning, authorities declared the fire to have been “stabilised”, but hundreds of workers are still trying to get the blaze completely under control.
According to the INFOCAforest fire authority, a fire is considered under control when the entire perimeter is surrounded by a strip of land without vegetation or with already-burnt vegetation.
Estimates suggest that at least 3,500 hectares of pine and chestnut forest have been lost.
Málaga province is also bracing for a heatwave that is expected to push temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in the coming days.
Around 1,000 people, including 160 soldiers, have been deployed to help with the efforts to put out the flames.
The fire is believed to have originated at a farm that once belonged to Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi, land on which 1,900 homes and a golf course are projected but which is now being used mainly as a private hunting reserve.
The same area was already affected in September 2021 by what turned out to be the most destructive fire last year in Spain, when flames devastated almost 10,000 hectares in eight Málaga municipalities.
One firefighter lost his life and 2,600 people were forced from their homes as some 10,000 hectares (24,700 acres) of land were lost over the seven days that the blaze lasted.