An urban forest fire broke out this morning in the municipality of Puntagorda, with 2,300 inhabitants, in the northwest of the island of La Palma. The flames have so far affected about 140 hectares of land in which up to 11 houses have been burned and about 500 residents evicted, as explained by the president of the Canary Islands, Fernando Clavijo, who took office this Friday.
“If the weather is with us, it seems that in principle for everything today [este sábado]with the vehicles being grounded, we could try to control it, but the wind is very changeable, strong gusts are expected and you have to be very careful,” said Clavijo.
Reality did not allow a day’s respite for the new president, who went to the island this Saturday morning to follow the evolution of the fire from the island’s Operational Coordination Center (Cecopin). He was joined by the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Héctor Gómez of the Canary Islands, who has scheduled several events this Saturday on La Palma.
The fire broke out in the vicinity of the LP-1 highway. The Canary Islands Government’s 112 emergency service received the first alert calls at 01:05. At 6:12, the Insular Council requested that the emergency be escalated to level 2 and that the operation be taken over by the Canary Islands government.
🔴 Forest fire on Palma.
It was declared in El Fayal (Puntagorda) around 1 am. The Government of the Canary Islands has activated level 2. pic.twitter.com/Rl3wMjSifi
– Canarian Radio (@laautonomica) July 15, 2023
The environment in which the llamas are found is eminently rural. Cultivations, brushwood and pines proliferate there, and it also houses houses. At this moment, seven aerial assets are involved in the extinction: three helicopters from the Emergency and Rescue Group (GES) of the Government of the Canary Islands and four from the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge. The military emergency unit is expected to join the firefighting work in the morning.
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The islands went through a heat wave last week which left Wednesday with the hottest temperatures in all of Spain. The village of San Nicolás and San Bartolomé de Tirajana, both in Gran Canaria, recorded 41.8 and 40.6 degrees respectively. The island of La Palma was no stranger to this phenomenon: the municipality of Puntagorda came to suffer 40.3 degrees.
The island of La Palma (with just over 75,000 inhabitants) is one of the most densely forested of the archipelago. The last major fire it suffered occurred in late August 2020 in the municipality of El Paso, just a year before the volcano erupted around the same time. That fire affected an area of about 1,200 hectares in total, although the burned land was estimated at 800 hectares of Canarian pine, pasture, scrub and some vineyard crops, as well as some houses.