Fire fighter dies as Málaga wildfire prompts evacuation of more than 900 people
A wildfire tearing through a mountain range in Southern Spain has killed a fire fighter and triggered the evacuation of nearly 1 000 residents, authorities have said. The fire, which started on Wednesday morning, 8 September 2021 has forced 939 people to flee from Estepona- a resort town popular with British expats on the Costa del Sol- and one in neighbouring Benahavis. The region’s fire extinguishing service, Infoca, confirmed that a 44-year-old fire fighter, who was part of a crew of nearly 300 working on the ground, died due to burns caused by the flames. The in the line of duty death of the forest fire fighter from INFOCA, the Andalusian Forest Fire Extinction Service, of station AE214, in Almería, tragically lost their life whilst battling a raging wildfire in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. The fire that started on high ground above the popular resort town of Estepona have so far burned 7 400 hectares of forest. Fire fighters were backed by 29 water bombers.
The hundreds of fire fighters assisted by military personnel, helicopters and water bombers are battling to bring the fires under control and prevent them spreading further. Residents and tourists were forced to evacuate from eleven towns and villages as the fires threatened to engulf them.
Fire fighters said strong winds, gusting up to 60 kilometres an hour, hot and dry conditions and the steep mountain slopes were making their task difficult although they hoped cooler night temperatures would help them gain the upper hand.
Tourists enjoying the sun on beaches witnessed a group of four water bombing aircraft, pick up water from the Mediterranean Sea to help extinguish the fires.
Jose Gracia Urbano, the mayor of Estepona, told reporters that investigators were considering arson to be the cause of the the fire, which broke out late on Wednesday in a mountain range of the Malaga province. “It’s very suspicious,” Urbano said, in comments given to Spain’s public broadcaster TVE.
The arson suspicions arise from the fact it started in two different places late in the evening as the wind was gusting up.
Smoke from the blaze has since led to the closure of some nine miles on the AP-7, a major motorway.
The regional fire extinguishing service said that the rugged terrain made quelling the flames difficult, with the blaze being fanned by strong winds with shifting directions. “It has pronounced slopes and there is a strong west wind that is complicating the work,” INFOCA said in a statement.
Spain’s Ministry for Ecological Transition added that, as of 29 August 2021, 186 000 acres of forest and bush areas in the country had burnt in 2021.
Environment Ministry data indicates that seven of the 10 hottest years on record in Spain occurred within the last decade. At the beginning of August, swathes of Europe experienced intense heatwaves, including Greece where thousands of residents on the island of Evia desperately fled their homes as ferocious flames decimated vast tracts of pristine forest.
More than 20 countries in Europe and the Middle East responded to a request for resources, sending planes, helicopters, vehicles and manpower.