First major wildfire of the year forces 1 500 people to evacuate, Spain

First major wildfire of the year forces 1 500 people to evacuate, Spain

A major wildfire in eastern Spain consumed over 4 000 ha (9 884 acres) of land near the village of Villanueva de Viver and prompted the evacuation of 1 500 people. Over 500 firefighters and 20 planes and helicopters were working to control the fire. This is Spain’s first major wildfire of the year.

A wildfire that erupted on Thursday, March 24, 2023, between the provinces of Castellon and Teruel in eastern Spain has devastated approximately 4 000 ha (9 884 acres) of land and forced the evacuation of 1 500 residents.

The fire, suspected to have been started by crop burning, rapidly spread between Thursday and Friday fueled by strong winds and unseasonably dry conditions. As a result, eight small towns and villages in the surrounding area were evacuated.

By Friday night, cooler temperatures and a lack of wind aided the efforts of 500 firemen, forestry workers, and members of the Emergency Unit of the Spanish Military in establishing a 40 km (25 miles) perimeter around the fire.

Teresa Rivera, the Minister for the Ecological Transition, pointed out that the region, which was traditionally cool and damp, has experienced altered patterns of temperature and humidity. Rivera highlighted the fifth consecutive year of drought on the Iberian Peninsula and stated that the changing water and temperature conditions explain the increased vulnerability of natural spaces.

The summer of 2022 was Spain’s hottest on record, with wildfires consuming over 300 000 ha (741 316 acres) of land – more than three times the 84 827 ha (209 609 acres) burnt in 2021.

The State Meteorological Agency (AEMET) predicts unseasonably hot weather in the affected area, with temperatures ranging from mid-20s to 30 °C (77 – 86 °F) by the end of the upcoming week.

A spokesman for the Spanish Civil Guard said that an investigation was underway into the cause of the fire.

References:

1 Spanish wildfire burns 4,000 hectares, forces evacuation of 1,500 – Xinhua – March 26, 2023

2 Evacuated villagers tell how Spain’s forest fire forced them to leave animals – Reuters – March 25, 2023

Featured image credit: Disputacio de Castello (stillshot)

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