Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

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

A bald eagle chick inside a nest in Rutland, Massachusetts. Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife
A bald eagle nest with eggs has been discovered in Cape Cod for the first time in 115 years, according to the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife (Mass Wildlife), as Newsweek reported.
Read More Show Less
The office of Rover.com sits empty with employees working from home due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 12 in Seattle, Washington. John Moore / Getty Images

The office may never look the same again. And the investment it will take to protect employees may force many companies to go completely remote. That's after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new recommendations for how workers can return to the office safely.

Read More Show Less
Frederic Edwin Church's The Icebergs reveal their danger as a crush vessel is in the foreground of an iceberg strewn sea, 1860. Buyenlarge / Getty Images

Scientists and art historians are studying art for signs of climate change and to better understand the ways Western culture's relationship to nature has been altered by it, according to the BBC.

Read More Show Less
Esben Østergaard, co-founder of Lifeline Robotics and Universal Robots, takes a swab in the World's First Automatic Swab Robot, developed with Thiusius Rajeeth Savarimuthu, professor at the Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute at The University of Southern Denmark. The University of Southern Denmark

By Richard Connor

The University of Southern Denmark on Wednesday announced that its researchers have developed the world's first fully automatic robot capable of carrying out throat swabs for COVID-19.

Read More Show Less
Jackson Family Wines in California discovered that a huge amount of carbon pollution was caused by manufacturing wine bottles. Edsel Querini / Getty Images

Before you pour a glass of wine, feel the weight of the bottle in your hand. Would you notice if it were a few ounces lighter? Jackson Family Wines is betting that you won't.

Read More Show Less
The SpaceX crew capsule will launch out of Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX

After a minor setback, a new era in space travel and tourism is set to launch this weekend.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A former Federal Reserve board of governors member on Thursday called on her former colleagues to stop using Covid-19 relief funds to bail out the "dying" fossil fuel industry. Douglas Sacha / Getty Images

By Eoin Higgins

A former Federal Reserve board of governors member on Thursday called on her former colleagues to stop using Covid-19 relief funds to bail out the "dying" fossil fuel industry, calling the decision a threat to the planet's climate and a misguided use of taxpayer money.

Read More Show Less