Spain Reports Progress in Battling Canary Island Wildfire

August 21, 2019

The wind dropped overnight in the Canary Islands, allowing firefighters to make progress Tuesday against Spain’s biggest wildfire so far this year.

Canary Islands President Angel Victor Torres said 16 water-dropping aircraft took off at first light amid “a lot more favorable” weather conditions than the previous day. Some 700 firefighters were battling the blaze.

More than 12,000 hectares (46,000 square miles) have been charred on the western slopes of Gran Canaria, an island off northwest Africa.

Torres said he hoped that some of the around 10,000, mostly local, people evacuated from the area could begin returning home Tuesday, while two dozen roads closed due to the fire were expected to reopen.

“I think we may be moving into the final phase of this wildfire,” Gran Canaria emergency chief Frederico Grillo told local broadcaster Television Canaria.

Gran Canaria is the third-largest island in the Canary Islands archipelago. About 50 kilometers (31 miles) in diameter, Gran Canaria has a population of 850,000 and is a popular vacation destination for Europeans and others.

Emergency services struggled Monday to contain the fire amid gusting winds and summer temperatures around 36 degrees Celsius (nearly 97 degrees Fahrenheit). The blaze started Saturday afternoon; the cause is under investigation.

The Spanish caretaker government’s farm minister, Luis Planas, said the wildfire was “like a tsunami” on Monday, when more than a million metric tons of water were used against it.

Torres, the Canary Islands president, said the heart of the island’s main nature reserve of Tamadaba was spared from the flames.

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