Over 1,500 people have been evacuated from their homes as a major forest fire continues to rage in the Castellón province of Valencia on Friday, and in neighbouring Teruel (Aragón).
Local officials said the fire had engulfed around 3,000 hectares of land since it broke out on Thursday, forcing residents, many elderly, from their homes and into shelters operated by the Red Cross and other charities.
The blaze began in Villanueva de Viver, close to the Mudéjar road that connects the Valencia region with Aragón and divides the provinces of Castellón and Teruel.
Emergency services in the region said eight towns had been evacuated, including an elderly residents home in Montán. In Castellón, the municipalities evacuated were: Montán, Arañuel, Villanueva de Viver, Fuente la Reina, Montanejos, Puebla de Arenoso (and its districts Los Cantos, Los Calpes and La Monzona). In Teruel, the towns of Olba and San Agustín were also evacuated.
Ximo Puig, president of the Valencia region, told reporters the fire was ‘very early in the spring, very voracious from the beginning’.
Puig added that the effects of climate change ‘are undeniable, so the perspective of firefighting must be considered on an annual basis’.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez tweeted, ‘My solidarity with the affected residents, especially those who have had to evacuate their homes.’
As of midday Friday, 18 planes and helicopters and more than 600 firefighters and soldiers were tackling the fire. The Spanish military and the nation’s ecological transition ministry deployed additional support to try to bring the blaze under control.
The state weather agency, AEMET, tweeted that ‘unfavourable weather conditions, especially considering the early date of the year, have favoured the (fire’s) rapid spread’. Temperatures were above 25 C when the fire broke out, and relative humidity sank below 30% following an unusually dry winter in the area.
In 2022, wildfires burned through 306,555 hectares of land in Spain. Last year was also Spain’s hottest since records began.
Spain has warmed 1.3 C since the 1960s, a warming that is noticeable all year round but especially in summer, when average temperatures have risen by 1.6 degrees. ALSO READ: Confirmed: 2022 was Spain’s hottest year on record.
Seguimos con gran preocupación la evolución del incendio que se ha originado este mediodía en Villanueva de Viver, en Castelló.— Ximo Puig (@ximopuig) March 23, 2023
Gracias a todos los cuerpos de emergencias que están luchando contra el fuego.
Lo más importante es proteger las vidas humanas.https://t.co/H4zF6HARZs