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Gran Canaria Fires: Fire slows as winds die down and conditions favour our forest firefighters

Gran Canaria Fires: Fire slows as winds die down and conditions favour our forest firefighters

Though the danger is not yet passed, at last this morning a change has begun to occur with wind conditions subsiding to favour the work of the forest firefighters as the the progression of blaze has slowed in several places, according to reports from the main 112 coordination team.

On Monday, the Canarian president, Angel Torres, and the Minister for Agriculture, Luis Planas,  announced that the next 48 hours would be key in the effort to extinguish the fire, with the work of the more than 1000 strong team beginning to yield results, especially on the northern flank, due to the remarkable high temperatures having been expected to cool below 30ºC, with relative humidity expected to increase above 30%.

 

For three days and nights, for the second time in a week, fire has ravaged the summits and the north of Gran Canaria, from east to west, so quickly that is was impossible to control along its multiple fronts, as the size of the flames at the head of the beast coupled with the inaccessibility of the mountainous Tamadaba Natural Park and the weather conditions (orange heat alert) made it technically beyond all extinction capacity.

During the night, 470 people have continued to fight the fire on different fronts, and with the dawn , they have already received relief troops, Throughout this Tuesday, a total of 21 aircraft will be at work including two large Kamov helicopters and a coordination plane mobilised by the Spanish state along with two cargo planes provided by the Junta de Castilla-La Mancha working alongside the 14 airplanes, seaplanes and helicopters engaged in extinction tasks and two in aerial coordination.

The total number of evacuees, according to the Monday night count, stands at more than 9,000. A total of 706 people spent the night in the various emergency shelters setup by various municipalities, the Cabildo de Gran Canaria and the Canarian Government, with support from the Red Cross and the Army.

Last night , the residents of the neighborhoods of Tasarte and Tasartico, in La Aldea de San Nicolás (west of Gran Canaria), were also evacuated from their homes, in a precautionary decision that was taken due to the large quantities of smoke that the fire was emitting towards that area of ​​the island.  And the southern municipality of Mogán was put on alert

The fact that the fire has not progressed to the Inagua pine forests in the west should also help firefighters to prevent it from advancing towards the southern slopes of the island, where some of the highest communities on the island were already in an advanced state of alert for a possible evacuation. The southwestern municipality of Mogán were quick to ensure teams were in place to create fire breaks and clear spaces to impede any spread of the fire, however thankfully no evacuations have been necessary.

It is important to point out that at no time have any tourist towns or resort areas been under threat, and there has been zero need to evacuate any tourist visitors, save for the occasional, more adventurous types who were staying in the mountainous rural interior of the island.  The airports have in no way been affected and the diligence of the authorities and the brave firefighters appear to have ensured that no injuries whatsoever have occurred throughout this major incident.

The burn zone, at the northern summits of Gran Canaria is thought to be about 12000 hectares, 120km2, just over 2/3 the area damaged by the Great Fire of 2007; and though the damage inflicted on the pristine pine forests of Tamadaba may be much less than initially feared, it could take 10 years for the trees to recover.  Several homes are thought to have perished, though municipal, regional and state funds should start to kick in to help with the rebuilding. And on the south of the island, bar owners in Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria and the local foreign resident community have raised thousands of euros to be able to offer assistance to those worst affected by this beast.

Gran Canaria’s humanity and solidarity has been sorely tested in recent days, with whole communities joining together to try and ensure the safety and comfort not only of evacuated populations, but also of animals, farm, domestic & wild, and so long as the firefighters are able to complete their work without further complications, this whole island can be very, very proud of how we have face the fires of 2019.

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