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

Alex Dunham
Alex Dunham - [email protected]
IN IMAGES: How the worst wildfire in 40 years is engulfing Spain's Tenerife
A cloud of smoke billows over the village of Candelaria on August 17th 2023, from a huge wildfire which broke out two days earlier and is raging in the northeastern part of the Canary island of Tenerife. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP)

Tenerife is still struggling to control the "most complex wildfire" the archipelago has seen in four decades, with thousands forced to flee their homes and the island's pristine forests being engulfed by flames.


It’s been two and half days since a wildfire broke out on the Canary island of Tenerife, just as celebrations for the island’s patron saint La Virgen de Candelaria were underway. 


This involves a pilgrimage by thousands of devotees to the coastal town of Candelaria, and it was precisely in the upper part of this municipality and in neighbouring Arafo where the blaze began late on Tuesday night.

Columns of smoke billow out of the forests surrounding the municipality of Güímar. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP)


As of Friday August 18th, 3,200 hectares of land have been affected by the flames, mostly a steep, rural area which leads to Tenerife’s Corona Forestal, a natural park made up of densely forested ravines that surround the island’s majestic Teide dormant volcano, Spain’s highest peak. 

On Thursday, the fire spread north towards the municipalities of Santa Úrsula, La Victoria de Acentejo, El Rosario, La Orotava, El Sauzal and Tacoronte, leading authorities to evacuate more than 3,000 people and urge nearly 4,000 others to stay indoors. 

LATEST: Thousands forced to flee huge wildfire in Spain's Tenerife

A group of pets evacuated from their homes along with their owners are received, registered, and cared for by members of different associations in the town of La Orotava. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP)



In the island’s capital Santa Cruz and in the second main city of La Laguna, some 20 kilometres away from the blaze, ash and pieces of charred tree bark fell from the air while an orange sun hidden behind a huge cloud of smoke gave the sky an apocalyptic look. 

A helicopter flies through the apocalyptic sky over Tenerife as the 'most complex fire in 40 years' in the Canaries rages on. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP)


Tinerfeños, as people from Tenerife are called, have heard the sound of hydroplanes’ engines rumbling back and forth for the past two days, a contentious subject among locals as there are none of these aircraft on the island and firefighters have had to wait for them to be deployed from mainland Spain, delaying the response to the wildfire. 

Environmentalists have referred to the blaze affecting the Canary Island’s biggest natural park as a “catastrophe”.

Satellite image shows the huge cloud of smoke from the fire in Tenerife reaching neighbouring Gran Canaria. Photo: Nasa


“The Corona Forestal forms a protective ring around the Teide National Park, it has a multitude of ecosystems connected to each other which have great biological wealth,” Jaime Coello told local Tenerife daily El Día.

Two people in El Rosario in northeast Tenerife look at the huge clouds of smoke as the flames approach the village. (Photo by DESIREE MARTIN / AFP)


“It’s vital for water collection and is the habitat of a multitude of species, some endemic to Tenerife or the Canary Islands such as the Canary pine tree, the blue chaffinch or the woodpecker.”

More than 250 firefighters have so far been drafted to tackle the fire, and troops from the Military Emergency Unit (UME) who regularly help efforts to stamp out some of the most dangerous blazes have also been mobilised. 

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


"This is probably the most complex fire we've ever had in the Canary Islands in at least the past 40 years," Fernando Clavijo, regional head of the archipelago, told reporters.

"The extreme heat and weather conditions... is making the work harder," he added.

"We are facing a fire the likes of which we've never seen before in the Canary Islands," meteorologist Vicky Palma, pointing to the vast column of smoke from a fire which by Friday morning had been spreading for 54 hours.



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