The massive forest fire on Tenerife is currently in a stabilisation phase, with some reactivations occurring overnight in both the higher altitude areas of the south and the north. However, these reactivations have been successfully contained by the firefighting teams. The situation is expected to see further reactivations throughout much of the perimeter today due to the high temperatures, according to the 112 Canary Islands’ Emergency and Rescue Coordination Centre, as shared on their social media.
The president of the Canary Islands, Fernando Clavijo, confirmed on Sunday that the forest fire was intentional, saying that the Guardia Civil is currently pursuing three lines of investigation in relation to the incident.
During a press conference, Clavijo stated that although suspicions of arson had been present from the start, the investigations conducted by the Guardia Civil have now confirmed it. However, he did not provide any further details on the matter.
The president expressed his hope that the individual or individuals responsible for the fire, which began with several points of ignition in the Arafo mountains, will be apprehended. He also expressed regret for the extensive damage caused and the endangerment of thousands of lives. In regards to the incident involving three individuals who breached the perimeter in the Las Lagunetas area, apparently attempting to access a dwelling, Clavijo mentioned that they have been identified. He expressed his expectation that they will face dual penalties through both criminal and administrative avenues.
Clavijo emphasised, “Not only did they put their own lives in danger, but also the lives of those who have to rescue them.” He noted that despite this incident, the behaviour of the general population “has been exemplary.”
As of Tuesday, the forest fire was beginning to show signs of relenting in terms of both the firefighting efforts and the evacuated residents. Residents from several municipalities on the island have been allowed to return to their homes.
The latest data reveals that the fire has already burned 14,751 hectares, marking an increase of 100 hectares yesterday. The fire spans a perimeter of 90 kilometres. This Wednesday, a total of 610 personnel are working on-site to extinguish the flames, supported by 18 aerial units.
Federico Grillo is urging citizen collaboration, as the regional emergency level remains the same, having been officially declared a “catastrophe” on Monday during a visit from Spain’s acting Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez.
Rosa Dávila, the president of the Cabildo, on Tuesday emphasised caution, urging curiosity-driven individuals not to approach the areas affected by the active fire, as temperatures at active spots can exceed 400º Celsius.
An increase in general temperatures is anticipated this Wednesday, which might pose challenges to firefighting efforts and the potential for reactivations of some fire spots. President Fernando Clavijo highlighted that numerous reactivations occurred between 2:00 PM and 7:00 PM on Tuesday, and it is expected that this pattern may continue on Wednesday.
The area of most concern remains the Peñón de Malabrigo. Despite efforts on Tuesday by six or so specialised brigades to widen controlled burns in the area, they were unable to access the deepest parts of the ravine, through which the fire continues to spread. It’s noteworthy that the upcoming days’ forecast will likely prevent these hotspots from cooling down.
⚠️ Tenemos un helicóptero menos debido a que alguien lanzó una piedra y lo dejó inoperarivo, por el impacto en el rotor de cola.
— Rosa Davila (@rdavmam) August 22, 2023
81 year-old man arrested for disabling a helicopter
Additionally, a helicopter involved in firefighting operations became inoperable yesterday after being hit by a thrown object while it was refilling its water supply from an agricultural reservoir. This incident has been attributed to misinformation and hoaxes being spread, out of fear of losing crops. Authorities emphasised the importance of maintaining a safe environment for the firefighting teams to operate.
🔥#IFArafoCandelaria |Actualización de la información
An elderly resident in his 80s from the municipality of Güímar, on Tenerife, has been arrested for throwing a stone at one of the helicopters engaged in firefighting operations to tackle the wildfire. The incident occurred while the helicopter was refilling water from an agricultural reservoir on the man’s property. The impact damaged the helicopter’s tail rotor and propellers, causing it to become inoperable. The helicopter had to make an emergency landing on the Fátima soccer field.
Rosa Dávila, the president of the Cabildo of Tenerife, shared this incident during a press conference about the ongoing situation, attributing the action to the spread of misinformation. She emphasised the importance of creating a safe and conducive environment for firefighting efforts and urged the public to rely on official sources of information, specifically referring to the 112 Centro Coordinador de Emergencias y Seguridad where emergency evaluations and press conferences are conducted. Dávila highlighted that alarming actions based on rumours can lead to dangerous consequences.
Manuel Miranda, the Territorial Policy Minister of the Canary Islands government, added that all helicopters involved in firefighting operations are equipped with GPS, allowing continuous tracking of water collection sites. He reassured reservoir owners that the water levels will be replenished when necessary.
As a result of this incident, this becomes the second aerial firefighting unit that will now be unavailable, as another of them, belonging to the Ministry of Ecological Transition, has a hydraulic systems malfunction.
The air quality, authorities warn, remains very unfavourable in 17 municipalities on the island due to the forest fire. Smoke from the fires comprises a mix of gases and small particles emitted from the combustion of vegetation and other materials. The north of the island, as well as municipalities like Los Realejos, La Orotava, El Sauzal, La Matanza de Acentejo, and others, continue to experience poor air quality as a result.