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Spain’s firefighters gain upper hand on some wildfires

Firefighting crews made progress on Thursday in their battle to contain dozens of wildfires in Spain as most of the country went back on alert for high temperatures, officials said.

SPAIN-WILDFIRE
Firefighters try to extinguish a wildfire next to the village of Tabara, near Zamora, northern Spain. (Photo by MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP)

A blaze near the northeast town of Ateca has seen a “positive” evolution, the regional government of Aragon said, having forced the evacuation of 1,7000 people and cut off the motorway linking Madrid to the country’s second city of Barcelona.

“There have been some flareups which have been stamped out,” the government tweeted.

The A2 motorway linking Madrid and Barcelona, which was cut near Ateca on Tuesday due to the blaze, reopened on Thursday.

“The return of the people who were evacuated to their homes is getting closer, but we must be prudent,” the head of the regional government of Aragón, Javier Lambán, told reporters.

In the northwest province of Zamora a huge blaze which killed a firefighter and a shepherd was under control, regional officials said.

Forest fires raging across Spain have already broken annual records in terms of hectares destroyed, with another grim milestone for the highest number of wildfires in a single year set to follow, new EU data reveals.

READ MORE: Spain breaks wildfire records with summer heat far from over

The July 9th-18th heatwave was one of the most intense ever recorded in Spain in terms of its geographic extension and duration. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said on Wednesday that more than 500 people died as a result.

While temperatures eased slightly on Wednesday, meteorological agency AEMET expects the mercury to rise again on Thursday and has issued heat warnings for most of the country, forecasting 41C in the eastern region of Extremadura and 40C in Andalusia in the south.

The European Forest Fire Information System says 2022 has been the worst year in Spain for wildfires, with 319 blazes destroying 193,247 hectares since January 1st breaking the country’s previous record in 2012 of 189,376 hectares destroyed.

MAP: Where are wildfires raging in Spain?

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WILDFIRES

Firefighters battle to control huge wildfire in Spain’s Valencia region

Some 300 firefighters spent a difficult night battling a huge wildfire in southeastern Spain that has burnt through nearly 10,000 hectares in an area notoriously difficult to access, officials said Tuesday.

Firefighters battle to control huge wildfire in Spain's Valencia region

The fire began when lightning hit the Vall de Ebo area in the province of Alicante late Saturday and it has since spread rapidly, fuelled by strong winds, forcing the evacuation of more than 1,000 people, Valencia’s regional government said.

“It’s been a very complicated night,” regional interior minister Gabriela Bravo told Antena 3 television, saying some 300 firefighters were battling the flames, backed by 24 planes and helicopters.

“At the moment we are talking about more than 9,500 hectares burnt with a perimeter of 65 kilometres (40 miles),” regional president Ximo Puig said late Monday, describing the blaze as “absolutely huge”.

“It’s a very complicated situation… The fire is creating enormous difficulties that are absolutely impossible to tackle with the speed we would like.”

Firefighters elsewhere in the region were also battling two other wildfires north of Valencia city, with hundreds of firefighters and at least 10
firefighting planes engaged in the operation, officials said.

Further north, firefighters in the Aragon region were hoping to bring under control another major blaze that broke out Saturday that has burnt more than 6,000 hectares of land, forcing at least 1,500 people from their homes.

So far this year, Spain has suffered 391 wildfires, fuelled by scorching temperatures and drought conditions, which have destroyed a total of 271,020 hectares of land, according to the latest figures from the European Forest Fire Information System.

This year’s fires in Spain have been particularly devastating, destroying more than three times the area consumed by wildfires in the whole of 2021, which amounted to 84,827 hectares, the figures show.

Scientists say human-induced climate change is making extreme weather events, including heatwaves and droughts, more frequent and intense. They in turn increase the risk of fires, which emit climate-heating greenhouse gases.

Fires have blazed across Europe, particularly in France, Greece and Portugal, making 2022 a record year for wildfires on the continent.

In Portugal, a wildfire brought under control last week reignited Tuesday in the UNESCO-designated Serra da Estrela natural park, the civil protection agency said.

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