Evacuation orders lifted as Spain wildfire crews gain edge

Crews battling to subdue a wildfire that has ravaged vast swathes of land in eastern Spain gained more ground on Sunday, allowing officials to lift all remaining evacuation orders.

BRIF putting out a forest fire in spain
Members of the Forest Fires Reinforcement Brigades (BRIF) work to put out a wildfire in the Moncayo Natural Park, one of the almost 400 blazes that have broken out in Spain this year. ANDER GILLENEA / AFP

The blaze, which started on Monday near Bejis in the eastern Valencia region, has destroyed over 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of land and spurred the evacuation of around 2,200 people.

“It is in the process of being stabilised. We hope that this afternoon or tomorrow it will be stabilised,” Valencia regional president Ximo Puig told reporters.

“Now is the time to return to normality, with caution. Everyone from any municipality or district can now return home,” he added.

Local officials had already on Saturday lifted evacuation orders in two villages, Bejis and Toras, because the threat from the flames had diminished.

Firefighters said reduced winds, cooler overnight temperatures and higher humidity levels had allowed them to start to contain the blaze.

But they cautioned that temperatures were still high, with the mercury expected to rise to 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), which when combined with hot, dry winds could still rekindle the wildfire.

About 20 aircraft were deployed to battle the blaze on Sunday, compared to 42 the day before, Puig said.

Another major wildfire which broke out last Saturday some 200 kilometres (125 miles) further south in the Vall de Ebo was brought under control on Sunday, he added.

It has ravaged some 12,000 hectares of woods, bushes and farmland.

The blazes are among the almost 400 to have broken out in Spain so far this year amid a series of punishing heatwaves and long dry spells that have devastated more than 283,000 hectares of land, more than three times the total area destroyed in 2021.

READ ALSO: Heavy rainfall helps contain huge wildfires in Spain’s Valencia region

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Spain gets first cold snap and snow after months of heat records

Much of Spain will see temperatures drop considerably over the weekend with more rain and some snowfall forecast, a welcome change for most after the country had the hottest October on record this year. 

Spain gets first cold snap and snow after months of heat records

The rainy and windy weather Spain has experienced in recent days will give way to a cold snap on Friday, officially waving goodbye to the unusual veranillo (little summer) the country has had in October and November.  

A maritime polar front will sweep through Spain over the course of the weekend, and although the mercury won’t drop below zero in most places, it will be considerably colder than it has been, especially in the centre and north of the country. 

“It is probable that in the coldest places in the country temperatures can drop even below -5ºC,” said Rubén del Campo, of Spain’s national weather agency AEMET. 

“The drop in temperatures will be gradual, cold air will start in the north of Spain and make its way south, with minimums expected in the evening,” renowned Spanish weatherman Roberto Brasero added. 

According to Spanish weather website, some parts of Aragón in northeastern Spain will see the mercury drop between 8C and 9 C and 6C in other regions such as Murcia, Catalonia, La Rioja and throughout central Spain.

Temperatures in inland cities such as Madrid, Cuenca, Logroño, Palencia and Salamanca will not exceed 12C during the day, while in the Canary Islands there will be a more moderate drop in temperatures.

The thermometer will hover between 13C and 17C in most of Andalusia during the day on Saturday and Sunday.

People in other cities in Spain’s interior such as Ávila, Soria, Burgos, Teruel, Toledo, Albacete, Valladolid and Pamplona will have to wrap up warm as temperatures below 5C are forecast.

Snowfall is also expected in the northeast and centre of the country at heights of 1,100 metres above sea level.

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Madrid authorities have announced a ‘snowfall plan’ which includes the quick deployment of snowplows, tens of thousands of tonnes of salt and more than 600 emergency workers, with the capital not keen for a repeat of the damage caused by Storm Filomena in January 2021.

The rainy weather will also continue in northern Spain and heavy rainfall will fall in the Balearic Islands on Saturday. 

By Sunday, minimum temperatures across much of Spain will increase, rainfall will be lighter and maximum temperatures will rise but remain below 20C across the mainland. 

Although this cold snap won’t last long, it will still seem like a breath of fresh (and cold) air for people in Spain, who since May have endured hotter weather than usual for the time of year.

It was the hottest month of October since 1961, the summer saw three intense heatwaves that caused record heat-related deaths and wildfires and the country recorded the second earliest heatwave in its history in May.

READ ALSO: October 2022 was the hottest in Spain since records began