Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

9,000 Flee ‘Unprecedented’ Wildfires on Spain's Gran Canaria Island

Popular
9,000 Flee ‘Unprecedented’ Wildfires on Spain's Gran Canaria Island

Flames rise from a forest fire raging in Montana Alta on the island of Gran Canaria on Aug. 18.

DESIREE MARTIN / AFP / Getty Images

Wildfires raging on Gran Canaria, the second most populous of Spain's Canary Islands, have forced around 9,000 people to evacuate.


The fires, which started Saturday, have entered the Tamadaba Natural Park, where some of the island's oldest pine forests grow. Authorities called it an "an unprecedented environmental tragedy," as BBC News reported Monday.

Firefighters are struggling to control the blazes due to high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity.

"The fire is not contained nor stabilised or controlled," Canary Islands President Angel Victor Torres told reporters Sunday, as BBC News reported.

So far, the flames have consumed an estimated 10,000 hectares (approximately 24,700 acres), AFP reported Tuesday. A crew of 1,000 firefighters and others are battling the blaze, making it the biggest firefighting mobilization in the history of the Canary Islands, Agriculture Minister Luis Planas told AFP.

The mobilization included 14 water-dropping planes or helicopters, but in some places flames rose so high — up to 160 feet — that neither ground crews nor planes could approach.

WWF wildfire expert Lourdes Hernandez described the conditions to AFP:

"The virulence of the fire, the speed at which flames spread, the intensity of the fronts, mean that more extreme weather conditions are generated inside the fire and embers leap sometimes hundreds of metres away," she said.

"That's what is known as firestorms. And they're blazes that cannot be approached and cannot be extinguished" by firefighting forces.

The current fire is the third to ignite in the mountainous region of Gran Canaria in 10 days. Another fire on the island earlier this month forced 1,000 people to evacuate and consumed more than 1,000 hectares (approximately 2,471 acres), CNN reported.

Hernandez told AFP that scientists attributed the speed of the fires to the climate crisis.

But the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Earth Observatory, which shared satellite imagery of the fires Tuesday, said that the change in fire behavior in the Canary Islands could also be attributed to a change in fire management practices.


NASA satellite images track the spread of wildfires on Gran Canaria.NASA Earth Observatory

Since the middle of the twentieth century, fires on the archipelago have gotten less frequent, but more intense. A smaller number of fires burn roughly as much area as a larger number did before.

University of La Laguna scientist José Ramón Arévalo said this was largely because successful efforts to suppress smaller fires led to a build-up of material that then ignites larger ones. The twin pressures of development and tourism contributed to this increased fire suppression.

Authorities hope to have more success battling the current blaze due to a drop in temperatures and 50 mile-per-hour wind gusts, CNN reported Tuesday.

Reindeers at their winter location in northern Sweden on Feb. 4, 2020, near Ornskoldsvik. JONATHAN NACKSTRAND / AFP via Getty Images

Sweden's reindeer have a problem. In winter, they feed on lichens buried beneath the snow. But the climate crisis is making this difficult. Warmer temperatures mean moisture sometimes falls as rain instead of snow. When the air refreezes, a layer of ice forms between the reindeer and their meal, forcing them to wander further in search of ideal conditions. And sometimes, this means crossing busy roads.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The Great Lakes, including Lake Michigan, experienced some of their warmest temperatures on record in the summer of 2020. Ken Ilio / Moment / Getty Images

Heatwaves are not just distinct to the land. A recent study found lakes are susceptible to temperature rise too, causing "lake heatwaves," The Independent reported.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Starfish might appear simple creatures, but the way these animals' distinctive biology evolved was, until recently, unknown. FangXiaNuo / Getty Images

By Aaron W Hunter

A chance discovery of a beautifully preserved fossil in the desert landscape of Morocco has solved one of the great mysteries of biology and paleontology: how starfish evolved their arms.

Read More Show Less
U.S. President Joe Biden sits in the Oval Office as he signs a series of orders at the White House in Washington, D.C. on January 20, 2021. Jim Watson / AFP / Getty Images

President Joe Biden officially took office Wednesday, and immediately set to work reversing some of former President Donald Trump's environmental policies.

Read More Show Less
Erik McGregor / LightRocket / Getty Images

In many schools, the study of climate change is limited to the science. But at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, students in one class also learn how to take climate action.

Read More Show Less