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Wildfires force evacuations across Valencia region

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The Local ([email protected])
Wildfires force evacuations across Valencia region
Fire fighters douse off a forest area burnt by a wildfire that began on March 23, in Fuente de la Reina, near Castellon. Photo: Jose Jordan/AFP

Several forest fires broke out across the Valencia region on Sunday, signalling that wildfire season has well and truly arrived early this year in Spain.

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Sunday saw a number of forest fires across the Valencia region, with some serious enough to warrant the evacuation of local residents and even, in some cases, the rescue of hikers from nearby hills.

Up to six fires were reported across the region on Sunday, with an orange alert declared for high temperatures, and the blazes affected the areas of Altea, a popular coastal tourist destination in Alicante province, Estivella, Barx, La Pobla de Vallbona, Llíria and Godelleta.

READ ALSO: Early wildfire in Spain rages out of control

The first of the fires was in Estivella, a small town north of Valencia capital close to Sierra Calderona, shortly after noon, and according to Spanish local media began on a campsite. When firefighters arrived on scene, they decided that the blaze was serious enough to require a Level 1 of the Generalitat's Plan Especial Frente al Riesgo de Incendios Forestales (PEIF) and to evacuate nearby residents. 

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The fire in Barx also warranted a Level 1 response, and nine hikers who were trapped on the top of the Mondúver mountain had to be rescued by emergency services.

Level 1 of the PEIF alert, according to the Generalitat, is an "Emergency situation caused by one or more forest fires which, in their evolution, may seriously affect forest property and, when applicable, moderately affect the local population and non-forest property."

According to regional newspaper Levante-EMV, the fire in La Pobla de Vallbona was extinguished on Sunday evening, as was the fire in the Altea area.

The fires in Llíria and Godelleta were successfully extinguished overnight and as of Monday morning the one in Godelleta is under control, while the blaze in Barx remains active, according to La Razón.

Footage posted on the Protecció Civil Picassent Twitter account shows the blaze in Poblade Vallabona yesterday.

 

Wildfire season

Early though this may be for forest fires, the recent blazes in Valencia were not the first of the year in Spain. A much more serious fire occurred in March in Villanueva de Viver in Castellón province, northern Valencia, which saw 700 firefighters battling the blaze, forced 1,500 people to flee their homes and burned over 4,000 hectares of land.

At the end of March, over one hundred illegally started fires ravaged the northern regions of Asturias and Cantabria in what authorities described as a 'terrorist attack'.

READ ALSO: Northern Spain ravaged by more than 100 fires

Firefighters said the blaze in Castellón was more typical of summer than of late March. With vegetation dried out by a lack of moisture in the atmosphere in recent months and large amounts of combustible biomass in the forests, the arrival of high temperatures means many areas are primed for fires.

In 2022, which was a particularly bad year for wildfires in Europe, Spain was the worst-hit country with nearly 500 blazes that destroyed more than 300,000 hectares, according to figures from the European Forest Fire Information System (EFFIS).

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