The forest fire which started on Saturday at the summit of Gran Canaria has already affected 15km2 in the central zone of the island and remains very much active, particularly on one of its flanks, with firefighting teams battling against high winds of up to 70 kilometres per hour, in a race against the clock as a heat wave approaches the island expected to raise temperatures still further over the next few days.
President of the Canary Islands Ángel Víctor Torres has reported in a press conference that the fire is characterised by the repeated reactivation of areas that seemed already settled, and he explained that although the tail of the fire, in the municipalities of Artenara and Gáldar, is more controlled, the head, which rises from Tejeda and travels towards La Aldea, is active and uncontrolled.
Despite the strong winds and a “very hard” night, the perimeter of the fire remains within the 23 kilometre long boundary set yesterday and the Canarian president has stressed that no serious injuries have occurred although there are some homes that have suffered.
About a thousand people who remain evacuated, including the residents of Tejeda, who were evicted last night, will not be able to return to their homes until their safety can be guaranteed, said Torres, who has expressed concern about the imminent arrival of “a heat wave” on the island.
Eleven helicopters – one of them of coordinating -, an airplane and a seaplane make up the aerial fire-fighting deployment, although the latter, belonging to the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture and that arrived on the island yesterday afternoon, has suffered a breakdown, so the same department of the State Executive has been asked to send another, which could begin to discharge water in the affected areas from at least 3pm.
The land operation, it is made up of between 500 and 600 people involved in different shifts. Staff of the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, Emergency and Rescue Group (GES), the Forest Fire Reinforcement Brigade (BRIF) of La Palma, the Forest Fire Intervention and Reinforcement Teams (EIRIF) of La Palma, La Gomera and the Hierro, Gran Canaria Emergency Consortium, Military Emergency Unit (UME), Canary Islands Emergency Service (SUC), Red Cross, Civil Protection of the municipalities of Ingenio, San Bartolomé de Tirajana, Santa Brígida, Santa Lucía, Teror, Valleseco , San Mateo, Valsequillo, Moya, Mogán and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, the Local Police of Tejeda, Gáldar and Artenara, General Corps of the Canary Police (CGPC), Civil Guard and Emergencies Fuerteventura.
Many roads around the summits of Gran Canaria remain closed, from the Cruz de Ayacata to the Cruz de Acusa to the crossing that runs between the Pines of Gáldar and Cruz de Tejeda.
Councillor for the municipality of Gáldar, Teodoro Sosa, has also confirmed that the fire has destroyed pipelines and electrical installations leaving the highest zone in that municipality without a supply of drinking water or electricity, incidents similar to those recorded yesterday in Artenara, which remained for hours without telephone coverage.
An imprudence with welding on grass in the sunshine
Torres has confirmed the “damage” to “the heritage” of Gran Canaria was apparently due to the “imprudence and recklessness” of a man alleged to have been using welding machinery at a house located near the GC-highway 21, at the height of the Las Peñas crossing, working on grass in open lowland terrain, the fire began and took hold quickly, the man, himself an ex-teacher and having been involved in local politics, was subsequently arrested by the Guardia Civil. However, Torres points out that “the best news” related to this incident is that “at this time there have been no personal injuries.”
The Cabildo de Gran Canaria technical head for emergencies, Federico Grillo, has specified that the work to extinguish the fire will focus throughout Monday on the perimeter of the fire, and “leave the interior” for now unless something significantly changes.
Grillo confirmed that re-ignition “potential is still high due to the strong wind and heat around the different sectors” with some 600 firefighting staff working to contain the fire zone, and areas of flame returning sometimes unexpectedly.
Several roads remain closed to traffic as a result of the fire. These are the GC-150 tracks from the Cruz de Tejeda to the Gáldar Pines, the GC-210 that goes from Tejeda to Artenara from kilometre 9.5 (Cruz de Acusa); and the GC-60, from Maspalomas to Tejeda from the Ayacata Crossing to the San Antonio Cross with access control in La Aldea and with passage allowed residents of the area. But other roads – such as the GC-220, the GC-702 and the GC-21 – have already been reopened, according to the highways agency, Carreteras de Cabildo Gran Canaria.
Strong winds look set to continue until midnight
The forecast is for strong winds in the east, south and west of Gran Canaria, with gusts of up to 80 kilometers per hour, according to the State Meteorological Agency.
It is expected that, starting at 00.00 on Tuesday, the wind will start to subside and the currently active yellow warning alert will end. The summits and the north of the island will not affected by the intensity of the wind.
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