Soldiers deployed to tackle major wildfire in southeastern Spain

Blaze in Malaga province has destroyed 17,300 acres of forest and displaced 2,500 residence

A house  in the middle of an area devastated by a  forest fire in Sierra Bermeja, Malaga, Spain. Photograph:  EPA/Daniel Perez

A house in the middle of an area devastated by a forest fire in Sierra Bermeja, Malaga, Spain. Photograph: EPA/Daniel Perez

 

Soldiers were deployed to tackle a major wildfire that has been burning in southeastern Spain for four days.

The blaze in Malaga province has destroyed nearly 7,000 hectares (17,300 acres) of forest and prompted fresh evacuations, bringing the total number of residents displaced to around 2,500.

Plan Infoca, the Andalusia region’s agency in charge of firefighting efforts, said Sunday was a “key day” for bringing the blaze under control.

Nearly 1,500 residents were evacuated from the towns of Jubrique, Genalguacil and four other villages on Sunday. This follows the evacuation of more than 1,000 people from areas around the resort town of Estepona before the weekend.

An emergency brigade travelled from the military base of Moron, in southern Spain, to join more than 300 firefighters and 41 water-dropping aircraft battling the flames.

The reinforcement was welcomed, but firefighters like Rafael Fanega, who said the blaze remained “out of control”, called for more boots on the ground to battle the flames.

“I don’t see enough deployed personnel,” he told The Associated Press, speaking in Jubrique after it was evacuated. “Some may see it differently, but that’s how I see it.”

Some progress was seen on Saturday, when authorities said better weather conditions had helped them stabilise the perimeter of the blaze, allowing them to focus on four hot spots.

A combination of hot and dry temperatures with strong winds created a perfect storm, turning the blaze that started late on Wednesday into a “hungry monster”, Alejandro Garcia, deputy operational chief of Plan Infoca, said earlier this week.

“The potency and strength of this wildfire is unusual for the kind of blazes that we are used to seeing in this country,” said Mr Garcia.

Plumes of smoke

The firefighting agency released aerial pictures showing towering plumes of smoke emerging from rugged terrain, which it said made crews’ access on the ground difficult.

A 44-year-old firefighter died on Thursday while trying to extinguish the blaze. Authorities said they had evidence of arson and were investigating.

Wildfires are common in southern Europe during the hot, dry summer months. But they have been particularly numerous around the Mediterranean Sea this year, worsened by the intense August heatwaves.

In Spain more than 75,000 hectares (186,000 acres) of forest and bush areas have burned in the first eight months of the year, according to the country’s Ministry of Ecological Transition.

Climate scientists say there is little doubt that climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving more extreme events, such as heatwaves, droughts, wildfires, floods and storms. – AP