Spanish firefighters on Monday were battling a wildfire that has raged for three days on the wooded slopes of La Palma in the Canary Islands, temporarily forcing the evacuation of more than 4,000 residents.
The fire, which the Spanish authorities say has burned some 10,000 acres, could be a preview of weather-related crises to come this summer in Europe. The southern part of the continent is in the midst of a heat wave that is drying up fields, increasing the risks of wildfires.
Local authorities said on Monday that more favorable weather conditions had helped firefighters slow down the advance of the blaze, and some residents were allowed to return to their homes. “The weather has been helping us,” Sergio Rodríguez, the president of the local government council in La Palma, said in a news conference on Monday.
More than 500 firefighters were trying to bring the blaze under control, aided by several water-carrying helicopters making regular rounds over the flames in an attempt to douse them.
The fire on La Palma, a small island of the Canaries archipelago off the northwest coast of Africa, started in the early hours of Saturday in a wooded area dotted with houses. It quickly engulfed large parts of the hilly terrain, burning some 20 houses and buildings and forcing thousands of residents to evacuate.
“People come first, then the houses and then extinguishing” the fire, Fernando Clavijo, the president of the Canary Islands regional government, told reporters on Saturday.
The wildfire is large enough that satellite shots taken by NASA showed plumes of smoke rising from the blaze in the northwestern part of the island. Images shared by local security services showed white pillars of smoke advancing through the island’s mountains.
Mr. Clavijo said the wildfire had quickly spread because of “the wind, the climate conditions and the heat wave that we are living through.”
Temperatures in the Canary Islands have soared during the heat wave. Local authorities said that the region has experienced below-average rainfall in recent years, as has drought-stricken mainland Spain.
Spain’s weather agency has warned that the combination of drought and high temperatures is increasing the risk of forest fires, a phenomenon that the country knows all too well.
Last summer, dozens of wildfires swept through Spain for days, displacing thousands of residents and consuming a record 750,000 acres, according to data from the European Forest Fire Information System.
Scientists now worry about wildfires breaking out increasingly earlier in the year, as summerlike temperatures are now recorded more often in the spring.
Spain’s first major wildfire of 2023 occurred in March. The next month, Spain experienced its hottest spring on record, with April temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in Andalusia.
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