Firefighters face long windy night on west of Gran Canaria as blaze burns on two fronts
The fire that broke out at around 6.30pm this Saturday evening, in the remote western Gran Canaria village of Tasarte, in the municipality of La Aldea de San Nicolás, has forced the local population of around 500 inhabitants to be confined to their homes, while fire crews remain watchful of a developing situation, facing a fast moving blaze, which is being fuelled by very strong winds, as it heads inland towards the Inagua Natural Park, which also borders the higher altitude parts of the south-western municipality of Mogán. The Cabildo de Gran Canaria have also been evaluating whether or not to evacuate the town of Tasartico. However it is currently deemed more dangerous for members of the population to be travelling as the winds gusting up to 100km/h fill the air with sand as the island experiences an extreme Calima event.
The alarm was first raised at around half past six this evening very close to Tasarte village. The strong winds currently being experienced by the entire archipelago, drove the fire forward in a matter of minutes in the direction of nearby Tasartico and up towards higher altitude ares, which is home to one of the most important pine forests on the island of Gran Canaria.
The Cabildo advised Tasartico residents that they should prepare, close windows and remove curtains and be ready to evacuate if the authorities tell them to. Firefighters from Galdar and Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria, along with members of the other security forces, have deployed quickly to the incident to try to bring the flames under control, which have quickly gained force in the adverse conditions.
Gran Canarias brave fire fighting troops now face a tough night action as the fire continues to advance. The forecasts suggest that the wind will continue to increase, with gusts along the western side of Gran Canaria expected to reach up to 120km/h with the potential to 150km/h before the night is through.
All of this is happening in an environment of extremely low visibility, as Calima sands have blanket the islands, drawn off the Sahara dessert by an Atlantic storm front, leaving airports closed and transport at a standstill.
The main front rising inland towards Inagua has been impeded by the cliffs for the moment, and latest hopeful reports are of it lowering in intensity along the Tasarte front, where the people who reside there are safe, but in the most immediate danger.
The battle for now is to try to keep those people out of harms way, while at the same time trying to stop the fires from spreading further as Gran Canaria heads in to a blustery, dusty night of heavy wind and low visibility.
Firefighters say the situation is very complicated due to the fast moving winds in the area. All staff of the Gran Canaria Fire Consortium has been put on active alert and are being reinforced so as to be able to respond to the Forest Fire and any other ordinary interventions that may be necessary. Right now, they tell us, we are in the most critical phase because these moments of deployment are their means of being able to stop the fires before they lose control of the situation. All members of the public are asked to follow directions from the competent authorities and official information.
Meanwhile a fire at sea has been reported aboard the Teneguía Volcano cargo ship located outside the Port of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. Engines stopped and giving notice to other boats.
More when we have it.