Quantcast

Spain Battles Largest Wildfire in 20 Years as Europe Sizzles in Deadly Heat Wave

Climate
Residents gather to watch a wildfire raging in Catalonia, Spain Thursday. PAU BARRENA / AFP / Getty Images

More than 500 firefighters and soldiers are battling Spain's largest wildfire in two decades as Europe continues to wither under an extreme heat wave, The Guardian reported Thursday.


The fire has burned 12,355 acres in the Catalan province of Tarragona, killed hundreds of sheep and forced 53 people to evacuate their homes.

"We're facing a serious fire on a scale not seen for 20 years," Catalan interior minister Miquel Buch said in a tweet reported by The Guardian. "It could burn through 20,000 hectares. Let's be very aware that any carelessness could lead to a catastrophe."

The fire ignited Wednesday, and authorities believe it started when chicken manure poorly stored on a farm spontaneously combusted in response to the high heat, USA Today reported. The paper explained the phenomenon:

Spontaneous combustion can occur when materials self-heat, reaching a high enough temperature for ignition to occur, according to the National Park Service. In the case of manure, microbes inside the dung can release heat until "it erupts into fire," according to Wired magazine.

A massive, 2,000-ton pile of manure in Nebraska burned for three months in 2005, per the magazine, and a Southern California manure fire in burned 6,000 acres in 2009.

Catalan Fire Department Chief David Borrell said the region's hilly geography made fighting the blaze more difficult.

"The problem is not so much the resources available but rather the difficulty of the terrain and the weather conditions," he said in an interview reported by USA Today.

Temperatures are expected to top 44 degrees Celsius in northern Spain and southern France, The Guardian reported.

In the southern French départements of Hérault, Gard, Vaucluse and Bouches-du-Rhône officials have raised the heat alert to red, the first time since the system was put in place following a 2003 heat wave that killed 15,000.

"All members of the public should be concerned, even those who are in good health," the French interior ministry cautioned, according to The Guardian.

University meteorologist Ruben Hallali tweeted Thursday's heat map for France next to a picture of Edvard Munch's famous painting The Scream to emphasize the temperature extremes, The Guardian further reported.

So far, the extreme heat has claimed at least three victims. Three elderly French people died after suffering heart attacks while swimming, Grist reported. A 72-year-old homeless Romanian man who was found dead near a train station in Milan Thursday may also have succumbed to the heat, BBC News reported.

Meanwhile, June temperature records were broken in Germany, Poland and the Czech Republic on Wednesday, according to BBC News.

Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research said the current heat wave was consistent with scientific predictions for the impact of the climate crisis.

"Weather data show that heatwaves and other weather extremes are on the rise in recent decades," he said, as The Guardian reported. "The hottest summers in Europe since the year AD1500 all occurred since the turn of the last century: 2018, 2010, 2003, 2016, 2002."

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Oksana Khodakovskaia / iStock / Getty Images

By Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

The loquat (Eriobotrya japonica) is a tree native to China that's prized for its sweet, citrus-like fruit.

Read More Show Less

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released new numbers that show vaping-related lung illnesses are continuing to grow across the country, as the number of fatalities has climbed to 33 and hospitalizations have reached 1,479 cases, according to a CDC update.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
During the summer, the Arctic tundra is usually a thriving habitat for mammals such as the Arctic fox. Education Images / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Reports of extreme snowfall in the Arctic might seem encouraging, given that the region is rapidly warming due to human-driven climate change. According to a new study, however, the snow could actually pose a major threat to the normal reproductive cycles of Arctic wildlife.

Read More Show Less
Vegan rice and garbanzo beans meals. Ella Olsson / Pexels

By Alina Petre, MS, RD (CA)

One common concern about vegan diets is whether they provide your body with all the vitamins and minerals it needs.

Many claim that a whole-food, plant-based diet easily meets all the daily nutrient requirements.

Read More Show Less
A fracking well looms over a residential area of Liberty, Colorado on Aug. 19. WildEarth Guardians / Flickr

A new multiyear study found that people living or working within 2,000 feet, or nearly half a mile, of a hydraulic fracturing (fracking) drill site may be at a heightened risk of exposure to benzene and other toxic chemicals, according to research released Thursday by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE)

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Pope Francis flanked by representatives of the Amazon Rainforest's ethnic groups and catholic prelates march in procession during the opening of the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Pan-Amazon Region at The Vatican on Oct. 07 in Vatican City, Vatican. Alessandra Benedetti / Corbis News / Getty Images

By Vincent J. Miller

The Catholic Church "hears the cry" of the Amazon and its peoples. That's the message Pope Francis hopes to send at the Synod of the Amazon, a three-week meeting at the Vatican that ends Oct. 27.

Read More Show Less

The crowd appears to attack a protestor in a video shared on Twitter by ITV journalist Mahatir Pasha. VOA News / Youtube screenshot

Some London commuters had a violent reaction Thursday morning when Extinction Rebellion protestors attempted to disrupt train service during rush hour.

Read More Show Less
Some fruit drinks may appear to be healthier, but many can have high levels of added sugars. d3sign / Moment / Getty Images

By Kristen Fischer

Though the science has shown sugary drinks are not healthy for children, fruit drinks and similar beverages accounted for more than half of all children's drink sales in 2018, according to a new report.

Read More Show Less