A mountain fire, sparked by a welder using a soldering iron, spiralled out of control in Gran Canaria, Spain, on Sunday August 11th causing mass evacuations. The fire, which started on Saturday just north of Artenara town, was downgraded to level 2 as it was deemed to be 85% under control. However, it sprung up again as it gained strength overnight and spread due to wind and high heat.
In the last few hours, Gran Canaria fire brigade Tweeted, ‘We are overwhelmed by the situation. We continue working and fighting for our island.” The fire is currently classified as "out-of-control", having now consumed an area the size of 1000 football fields. It has spread from the Artenara municipality into both Galdar and Tejeda, including the Sacred Mountains World Heritage Site and is burning through the pine forests of the Caldera de Tejeda.
Ten fire-fighting helicopters and planes are fighting the fire with another large plane on the way from mainland Spain. Helicopter crews have been pictured dropping water on the raging fire from above. Most roads in the Gran Canaria mountains are shut to the public to allow firefighters to move freely. Local authorities have confirmed extra troops are being called in to help tackle the blaze.
Hundreds of people have been evacuated from their homes as the fire is now burning strongly in the forests between Artenara and Tejeda. Plans are already in place to evacuate Tejeda itself if the fire keeps spreading. At least one campsite has been evacuated and the smoke is clearly visible from the air in all parts of the island and from Tenerife. “Numerous villages have been evacuated and residents spent the night in municipal buildings such as sports centres, schools and community halls,” the fire brigade said in a Tweet.
According to police, a man aged 55 has been arrested.
The fire, about 20 miles from the capital Las Palmas, is in the western part of the island in the mountains. Gran Canaria, which is one of the Spanish Canary Islands along with Tenerife, has a population of around 900,000 people. It is estimated around four million British tourists visit the island each year. Visitors to Gran Canaria have been advised to stay away from the affected areas but should not be concerned about their safety as the fire is a long way from the resorts.