SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE, Canary Islands (AP) — Canary Islands regional President Fernando Clavijo said Sunday that police have confirmed that a wildfire raging on the Spanish tourist island of Tenerife was started deliberately.
Clavijo said police had opened three lines of investigation but did not say if there had been any arrests.
Improved weather conditions helped firefighters make advances overnight in their battle to tame the blaze that has raged out of control for the past five days, authorities said Sunday.
“The night was very difficult but thanks to the work of the firefighters, the results have been very positive,” Tenerife governor Rosa Dávila said at a news conference.
The Canary Islands have been in drought for most of the past few years, just like most of mainland Spain. The islands have recorded below-average rainfall in recent years because of changing weather patterns impacted by climate change.
Although the blaze in the northeast of the island is not near the main tourist areas in the southwest, the regional government ordered the evacuation of a state-run hotel in the Teide volcano national park, in central Tenerife, some 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of the fire zone. It was not immediately clear how many peope were staying at the hotel.
Dávila said that more than 12,000 people have been evacuated from their homes since the fire started Tuesday. Up to Saturday, more than 8,000 hectares (20,000 acres) of pine forest had been burned, but Dávila said that figure was likely to be much higher Sunday.
No injuries have yet been reported and Dávila said that thanks to the firefighters no houses have been burned so far.
The fire, described as the worst in Tenerife in decades, is threatening 11 town areas flanking a steep and craggy mountain area. Access for firefighters is extremely difficult.
The emergency services said air quality in 19 town areas was not good and urged people to stay indoors when possible and wear masks outdoors.
More than 400 firefighters and soldiers have been deployed, as well as 23 water-carrying helicopters and planes.
Spain’s mainland is bracing for another heat wave starting Sunday that will last until Thursday. Spain’s state weather service said temperatures would gradually rise to hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in parts of the mainland Wednesday and Thursday.
On Tenerife, the agency predicted maximum temperatures averaging 30 C (86F) for the coming week.
More than 2,000 people were evacuated in a wildfire on the nearby La Palma island last month that affected some 4,500 hectares (11,000 acres).
According to the European Forest Fire Information System, Spain heads the list of EU countries affected by wildfires so far this year, with 75,000 hectares (185,000 acres) burned, ahead of Italy and Greece.
Spain accounted for almost 40% of the nearly 800,00 hectares (2 million acres) burned in the European Union in 2022, the EU agency said.
The seven Canary Islands are located off the northwest coast of Africa and southwest of mainland Spain. At their nearest point, they are 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Morocco.
Ciarán Giles reported from Madrid