MADRID (AP) — More favorable weather conditions have helped firefighters slow the advance of a wildfire on La Palma in Spain’s Canary Islands that has forced the evacuation of more than 4,000 residents, authorities said Sunday.
The fire, which started on Saturday, has affected an area of about 4,600 hectares (11,300 acres) and burned some 20 homes and buildings.
Authorities urged people not to go near the area on the northwest side of the island.
Tourism Minister Héctor Gómez told reporters that thanks to efforts to fight the blaze overnight, prospects for bringing it under control had improved.
More than 300 firefighters have been deployed and nine water transport helicopters and two aircraft are deployed to extinguish the fire. On Sunday, another 86 members of the army’s emergency military unit were flown to the island.
The fire coincides with a heat wave that is ravaging southern Europe.
Temperatures in the Canary Islands, located off the northwest coast of Africa, spiraled out of control last week as Spain experienced a second summer heat wave. The weather has cooled down somewhat since Friday, but the country is expected to experience another heat wave this week.
Vicente Rodríguez, mayor of the town of Puntagorda near where the fire started, said on Saturday that the area has seen below-average rainfall in recent years, as has large parts of Spain’s drought-stricken mainland, due to changing weather patterns affected by climate change .
Due to the drought, the wooded, hilly terrain has become bone dry.
The wildfire and evacuations come almost two years after a three-month volcanic eruption wreaked havoc on La Palma. Although no one was killed, about 3,000 buildings were buried, along with many banana plantations, roads, and irrigation systems.
Spain experienced record high temperatures in 2022 and this spring as it faces a prolonged drought. Authorities and forestry experts are concerned that conditions are ripe for a tough wildfire campaign after seeing fierce fires as early as March.
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