Firefighters make progress with unprecedented wildfire in Tenerife

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Firefighters make progress with unprecedented wildfire in Tenerife
In this handout image released by Military Emergency Unit (UME), military firefighters battle a forest fire on August 17, 2023 raging in the northeastern part of the Canary island of Tenerife. (Photo by Handout / UME / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO / UME " - NO MARKETING NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS

Firefighters have made progress on Friday in their fight against a huge wildfire on the Spanish Canary island of Tenerife that has forced the evacuation of thousands of people.


The blaze, which officials say is the most "complex fire" to hit the Canary Islands in 40 years, broke out late on Tuesday in a mountainous area of northeastern Tenerife.


About 450 firefighters and soldiers backed by 16 aircraft were battling the blaze which has so far destroyed some 3,800 hectares (9,400) acres, the regional government of the archipelago said.

Columns of smoke, pictured from the village of Güímar, on August 17, 2023, billow from a huge wildfire which broke out two and a half days ago and is raging in the northeastern part of the Canary island of Tenerife. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP)


Officials said the wildfire — which has a perimeter of 42 kilometres (26 miles) — had advanced more slowly and predictably overnight, making it easier for crews to tackle the flames.

IN IMAGES: How the worst wildfire in 40 years is engulfing Spain's Tenerife

“This night at least the fire and the weather behaved normally,” Fernando Clavijo, regional head of the seven-island archipelago, told a news conference.

“In the two previous nights the wind, temperatures and the behaviour of the fire were highly unusual,” he added.


Some 3,000 residents in the area have been evacuated and around 4,000 others were ordered to stay indoors because of the fire, while access to the Mount Teide volcano, Spain’s highest peak, was cut off.

Some locals told Spanish media they were given just one hour to pack some belongings and leave their homes.

A hydroplane drops water on the flames in Tenerife's Corona Forestal natural park. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP)


Ash from the wildfire fell on much of the island, and smoke from the blaze affecting nine municipalities could be seen in satellite imagery.

Clavijo has said this is the “most complex” wildfire in the Canary Islands “in at least the past 40 years” because of the topography of the area, high temperatures and winds that changed directions frequently.

 "We are facing a fire the likes of which we've never seen before in the Canary Islands," meteorologist Vicky Palma added.

The blaze broke out after the islands were hit by a heatwave that has left many areas tinder dry.

While air humidity levels rose overnight and winds calmed which helped firefighters battle the blaze, temperatures are once again expected to soar over the weekend in Tenerife.

As global temperatures rise due to climate change, scientists have warned heatwaves will become more frequent and intense, with a much wider impact.

3,200 hectares of pristine forest have so far been affected by the wildfire in Tenerife. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP)


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

So far this year, more than 71,000 hectares have been ravaged by fire in Spain, which is one of the European countries most vulnerable to climate change.

Nasa map showing the area affected the wildfire on the morning of Friday August 18th.


"We ask that the population respect all these road cuts," said the head of the archipelago's civil protection service, Montserrat Roman.

The wildfire comes after the Canary Islands were hit by a heatwave that has left many areas tinder dry, increasing the risk of wildfires.


READ ALSO: What to do and what to avoid if you witness a forest fire in Spain


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