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A fire "inextinguishable" in Gran Canaria: llamas 50 meters high


Three days later, the forest fire that hits the island of Gran Canaria remains uncontrolled. The flames have already devastated 10,000 hectares and 9,000 people have been evacuated since e

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Three days later, the forest fire that hits the island of Gran Canaria remains uncontrolled. The flames have already devastated 10,000 hectares and 9,000 people have been evacuated since the beginning of the fire last Saturday, August 17.

The llamas, which at some points reach 50 meters high, have particularly affected the inhabitants of eight municipalities, such as Moya , Valleseco , Firgas , Guía , Gáldar , Agaete , Tejeda and San Mateo . Of the victims affected, a total of 546 are staying in the different shelters that enabled the Government of Ángel Víctor Torres , and it is expected that they will not return to their homes to “preserve the safety of people,” according to the Canarian president.

This fire, however, belongs to the so-called sixth generation fires, whose main characteristics have to do with its rapid expansion and its special virulence. The main aggravating factor is the accumulation of weeds, dry trunks or other highly flammable materials due to the neglect of fields and forests, materials that are gasoline that magnifies the fire and makes it unstoppable.

In this sense, the origin of the fire occurred in «a ravine, where the fuel loads were large», according to Florencio López , head of Civil Protection of the Canary Islands . Despite this, many of the areas affected by the fire are not in the forests, but have burned "abandoned crops or scrubland areas, with the exception of Tamadaba , which is an important Canarian forest."

This neglect of the Gran Canaria landscape and, above all, adverse weather conditions, have inferred that the flames have spread in just over 72 hours on a perimeter of 60 kilometers, according to official government sources. That is, the excess of biomass has served as fuel so that in less than a week there have been up to three fires on the island.

The circumstances are somewhat peculiar at the head of the fire, located in the Natural Park of Tamadaba, because it is "an adult Canarian pine forest with very strong fuel loads," argues López. In addition, the 25 meters high of each pine produce that the length of the flames is 50 meters, so that firefighters, for now, can not face the extinction of fire in this area.

However, López explained to EL MUNDO that the area can be recovered in "three or four years", since "the Canarian ecosystems are very familiar with fire. It is not like in the Peninsula, which can take up to 60 or 70 years to recover ». Despite this, there are bird species, such as the native Pinzón Azul , and reptiles protected in the nature reserve that "will be widely affected" by the fire.

Another cause that caused the rapid expansion of the flames in the northwest of the island was «the arrival of trade winds that, after passing through North Africa and desert areas, have caused the air that arrives in the Canary Islands to be very warm and dry ”, according to Víctor Quintero , director of the Meteorological Center of Tenerife . Consequently, the wind and the unusual dryness of Gran Canaria, after being immersed in a small heat wave the past few days with temperatures above 40 degrees and a relative humidity between 12% and 13%, caused the flame They will spread faster than usual. The fire "currently responds to the new typology of fires closely linked to climate change and extreme weather conditions, with heatwave, low humidity - below normal - and wind," the spokeswoman for the WWF environmental organization told Efe , and expert on fire issues, Lourdes Hernández .

Even so, the Canarian Civil Protection chief was optimistic and assured that "in the tail and on the right flank of the fire, the fire is controlled and there is no forecast that it will have an unfavorable evolution." Despite this, he acknowledged that the cessation of the flames on the "left flank" is more complicated and that is where the operative "is focusing its activity now."

For his part, the Canarian president, in the company of acting Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Luis Planas, said yesterday that the "drop in temperatures" in the coming days will facilitate the Fire Department to quell the flames. However, at the State Meteorological Agency they were more cautious before this medium. According to the Aemet, "although we thought that the temperatures were going to go down, the descent will take place slowly", in fact, only on Wednesday there will be a "rest", since from Thursday to Sunday "the temperatures rise again" . This would hinder the work of extinction in the event that the fire was not already controlled.

According to sources from 112 of the Canary Islands, about 1,000 operators and a total of 14 air means have participated in the firefighting work, responsible for the discharge of water to the affected areas and two others, whose function is to coordinate them. Among these collaborators, 278 soldiers from the United Military Emergency Department (EMU) also traveled to the island, due to the difficulty of putting out the fire.

Despite the large contingent, it is expected that aid will be reinforced today from the Peninsula. Specifically, the Government of Spain will provide two kamov helicopters and the Junta de Castilla-La Mancha will send two airplanes.

Both Torres and Planas agreed that it is one of the most important air and land deployments that has occurred in the Canary Islands and one of the most important in the history of Spain. Likewise, Minister Planas assured that today and tomorrow are the "fundamental" days to put out a fire that, in Florencio López's opinion, "will take about four or five days to be controlled if the weather conditions do not change." Despite this, the Canarian ecosystem will take back to be what it was three or four years at best. At worst, it could succumb to a barren and eroded soil being generated.

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