Forest fire in Ifonche area
Update 9 August: I’ve just been sent a link to a lovely blog that I’d previously been unaware of: it’s tenerifenaturewalks, and there are some incredible and very sad pictures in the most recent post HERE of the Barranco de Tágara as of yesterday.
Update 24 July: As of late last night, after another intensive day of firefighting, the fire is now officially under control in Tágara. Guía de Isora mayor Pedro Martín said that teams were now on extreme watch in case any hotspots break out again. The mayor said that he was confident the fire will be completely extinguished in the barranco forest this week. Canarian Government Vice President José Miguel Pérez and Tenerife Cabildo Environment Councillor Ana Guadalupe Mora are expected to meet the mayors of the three municipalities affected later today to evaluate the damage.
Mayor Martín said that the the fire had caused damage to the hydraulic infrastructure in Guía de Isora, and that yesterday works were carried out to avoid cuts to supplies in Guía de Isora town and in Chirche.
The Tenerife Cabildo said that President Ricardo Melchior visited the affected area yesterday and personally thanked the firefighters for their efforts. Sr Melchior also stressed that the most important thing was that nobody had been injured, and that the public had acted with a real civic ethos. He was at pains to emphasize that during this period of high temperatures, and indeed at all times, the public must take extreme care to avoid fires. He reiterated, finally, that despite the weather cooling slightly and the success at fighting the fire, the ban on using BBQ areas remained in place.
Update 3.30pm: Efforts now are concentrated in cooling the hot points, particularly the Tágara barranco, and Cabildo forestry brigades are maintaining vigilance in Vilaflor and Guía de Isora until these fires are completely put out. The authorities say, however, that it will be weeks until the fire can be said to be completely extinguished.
Update 21 July: This morning’s good news is that the fire is now stabilized in Tágara. And now the Ayuntamientos are getting to work to draw up a clear assessment of the damage. This started yesterday in Adeje byconcejal de Infraestructuras y Servicios Municipales de Adeje, Gonzalo Delgado, and Vilaflor mayor Manuel Fumero says that it can be undertaken in Vilaflor. Guía de Isora has still to extinguish the last remaining active fire in Tágara so will be last to start the works, and municipal sources say that it will take a few days for them to be in a position to create a global report on environmental and agricultural damage in the area.
Update 10.30pm: It was a hope this morning. It’s a reality tonight. The Tenerife Cabildo says that the fire is under control: there are no longer any active focus points. Vigilance continues, evidently for any hot points that might flare up in Guía de Isora and Vilaflor, but the one helicopter of the Cabildo and the three of the Government will be withdrawn in the next few hours from active duty.
The TF38 and TF21 are now reopened too. The Cabildo, however, recommended the public to keep clear of these roads as far as possible over the weekend to try to avoid any possible danger both to persons and the forest.
At last, and thank god!
Update 7pm: It’s not over yet, but I am delighted to post this! The Canarian Government has lowered the fire from a Level 2 emergency to a Level 1. The situation has improved enough so that from 6.30pm the firefighting effort will be the responsibility of the Tenerife Cabildo rather than the Canarian Government. In lowering the level, Minister of Economía, Hacienda y Seguridad del Gobierno de Canarias, Javier González Ortiz, expressed the Canarian Government’s gratitude for the professionalism and hard work of everyone involved in dealing with the emergency. Sr Ortiz wanted also to acknowledge the great collaboration, patience and understanding, of the residents of the areas affected by the fire, and those who had to evacuate their houses.
It’s getting there!
Update 5pm: The TF21 and TF38 should be open again around 6pm. There are some wonderful photos HERE of the beautiful barranco and forest that is being consumed by fire right now. Poor Tágara.
Update 11am: Good news this morning from the Canarian Government, which says that it is no longer possible to talk of “fronts” of the fire – what we have now are focus points. Consejero de Economía, Hacienda y Seguridad del Gobierno de Canarias, Javier González Ortiz, opened the press conference this morning by saying that the most significant focal point is in the Tágara-Chirche area of Guía de Isora where the terrain is difficult. This is where the air and land resources are now being concentrated. Sr Ortiz said that apart from this, the firefighting effort is continuing favourably.
Presidente of the Tenerife Cabildo Ricardo Melchior said that the maximum alert for forest fires continues and that the public should stay away from mountain areas in general, not just the forestal.
Both Sr Ortiz and Sr Melchior thanked once again the work carried out by personnel of Brifor de Medio Ambiente, the Consorcio de Bomberos de Tenerife, the Unidad Militar de Emergencias (UME), all the other firefighting resources, the Servicio de Urgencias Canario (SUC) and the Guardia Civil. They also stressed the work carried out by the Ayuntamientos, volunteers and Protección Civil of the different municipalities which have been affected by the fire, as well as collaborating businesses and institutions.
Chief of the Servicio de Protección Civil de la Dirección General de Seguridad y Emergencias del Gobierno de Canarias, Humberto Gutiérrez, explained that the objective now is to anchor and stabilize the barrancos in the west flank, not least because with the rise in temperature over the next few hours the firefighting effort could become more difficult. Sr Gutiérrez said that there will probably be “hot spots” inside the perimeter for the next few weeks.
With the firefighting effort being increasingly successful, the Servicio de Urgencias Canario (SUC) withdrew its post from Guía de Isora late last night. The service will none the less keep an ambulance stationed in Ifonche in case its intervention were to be needed.
Roads: two roads remain closed, the TF38 Chio-Boca Tauce and the TF21 Vilaflor-Boca Tauce. These roads could remain closed a few more days.
Update 20 July: The fire on the north west flank in Guía de Isora is still burning this morning and has still not been stabilized, though with the return of the air resources it is hoped that by the end of the day it will be so – the hydroplane is making its first flyover right now, at 8.15am. The weather’s going to help too because at least for today it’s cooler, and the wind remains low. Canarian President Paulino Rivero says that work has been going on “intensively” to battle this particular part of the fire and certainly yesterday the hydroplanes and helicopters did not stop all day. Elsewhere, the fight will now be on to move the status from stabilized to under control, two words that everyone is hoping to hear today. Latest statistics are that the perimeter is 41km, 5,200 hectares are affected of which 1,000 hectares are completely burnt, half of which are forest.
Update 11pm: As Diane has posted in the comments below, it’s easy to help with Arona’s call announced on Twitter for drinks and snacks for firefighting volunteers. As I said this morning when I confirmed the appeal was genuine, just take water or fruit juice together with fruit or bocadillos or similar to the Protección Civil office in Playa de Las Americas. They collect supplies there and an official vehicle leaves there to deliver them around 4.30pm every day. The office is easy to find as it is opposite the car pound and the side of the football field in Las Americas – a low white building with the name above. As Diane rightly says, it’s a small way in which to thank them for the difficult job they are doing.
Update 5pm: Cabildo 3pm: The fire is evolving as foreseen with the perimeter secure apart from its west flank which is being fought with air and land resources. With respect to the southern flank, the presence of smoke does not imply any risk of the fire reactivating, and the residents of Vilaflor, Ifonche and Tijoco Alto, are now able to return to their houses, though with precaution for those with respiratory problems.
Consejero de Seguridad del Cabildo de Tenerife, José Antonio Valbuena, said that some heavy machinery has already started to be withdrawn in certain areas because it had not been needed. At present, work is ongoing to restore the water supply in certain parts of Vilaflor.
Humberto Gutiérrez, Servicio de Protección Civil del Gobierno de Canarias chief, said that the perimeter remains the same as yesterday apart from on the west. The fire is anchored, perimetered, and stable. Moreover, weather conditions are good and no strong winds are forecast. He continued that once people and property are secure, which is the priority, work can now proceed with full steam ahead on the environmental front. This morning, aircraft have entered the barrancos affected in the western flank of the fire. These are mainly filled with rather more open pine forest which allow firefighters to work in secure conditions with air support.
The active part of the fire is advancing slowly and in a way that gives hope for its extinction. At the same time other hot spots are being cooled to avoid the fire starting up again, and earth piles have been placed around the whole of the perimeter to kill any flares.
In respect of the next few hours, the fire is static in both its flanks and tail. If the fire cannot be stopped in its westward advance, it will finally go out in the lava field. None the less, said Sr Gutiérrez, while there are active points it is still not possible to say that the fire is under control.
With regard to roads, the only roads now closed are the TF38 (Chío-Boca Tauce) and the TF21 (Vilaflor-Boca Tauce). Both will remain closed for a few days to facilitate firefighting efforts. Finally, the electricity supply is now re-established in the Vilaflor and La Escalona areas.
Update 1.30pm: Great news! Residents of Vilaflor, Tijoco Alto and Ifonche have been authorized to return to their homes. As well as the TF583 (Taucho), the TF585 (Tijoco Alto) has now also been reopened.
Update 12.30: Tenerife Cabildo President Ricardo Melchior has said in this morning’s press conference that the vast majority of the fire’s perimeter is now stable and should be controlled within a few hours. Sr Melchior said that the evolution of the fire at this point was good news, though all the necessary precautions should be taken. Minister for Economía, Hacienda y Seguridad, Javier González Ortiz, said that although the situation has improved substantially, the level 2 remained in place so that the coordination of the firefighting efforts should remain in the hands of the Regional Government.
Residents of Vilaflor and Tijoco alto will be able to go home in the next few hours once the front which threatened the town is stabilized. The northwest front is still active, as are various focal points in that area. Sr Melchior said that from the data available we can conclude that some 1,000 hectares have been burnt, 500 of them in the forest proper. In this sense, he stressed that in Tenerife the forestal is around 50,000 hectares, so the actual real damage affects just 1%.
During the night, firefighting has proceeded as foreseen. The east flank of the fire is being stabilized and the west, though active, has advanced slowly, gradually dying down as it has gone through sparsely populated pine forest areas and lava fields. Sr Melchior cxongratulated all who had taken part in the battle in the various administrations, both those on the ground and those directing operations, and the various affected municipalities, and collaborating quangos and private businesses.
Julio Herrero, Jefe de Servicio del Medio Natural del Gobierno de Canarias, operating director of INFOCA, said that the forecasts for firefighting last night were good, and that the strategy had been based on stabilizing the active zone and then trying to get it under control. The area affected was inaccessible, and helicopter units were needed, reinforced by the hydroplanes. If conditions remain as they are, the fire will not advance towards Santiago del Teide. In Vilaflor the services will work to maintain the fire’s stability.
The health teams report that no medical assistance related to the fire was needed overnight. None the less, the medical post and assistance resources temporarily based in Guía de Isora will remain in operation in case their intervention becomes necessary.
The electrical supply has been re-established to Vilaflor and La Escalona.
Road information: TF583 (Taucho) is now open. The other roads remain closed at various points, namely TF567 (La Escalona – Ifonche); TF585 (Tijoco Alto); TF38 (Chío – Boca Tauce); TF21 (Vilaflor – Boca Tauce); TF51 (La Camella – Vilaflor); and TF563 (San Miguel – Vilaflor). All could be closed for several days.
Update 11am: Above are some marvellous photos of the hydroplane and two helicopters involved in fighting the Tágara fire. The water plane can just be made out in the last one in front of the two helicopters – it’s already almost hidden by the smoke it’s flying into. With many thanks to Chuck Urmson, one of whose photos I posted the other day; these are taken as the craft fly over Tejina. He has a camera, and zoom lens, that knocks spots off my little digital!
Update 10.40am: The BBC is now reporting the fire on its news website HERE.
Update 10.30am: 112 has announced that the TF583 Taucho road has been reopened.
Update 9am: After the hoax about Guía de Isora local police seeking water lorries, it’s not surprising that people were sceptical about Arona’s call for food and drink for volunteer firefighters. This was something I felt confident about or I shouldn’t have posted it in the first place, but given the concern, I’ve triple checked this morning by speaking to the Patronal de Turismo de Arona itself. This call for supplies is not a hoax, it is 100% genuine. They are looking for water and fruit juice, fruit and bocadillos, for the volunteers involved with the fire. These are being coordinated by Protección Civil in Playa de las Américas. Please drop supplies off to them direct, opposite the police “parking” near the football field in PdlA.
Update 8.15am: We have all three planes over us right now to drop water on Tágara.
Update 19 July 8am: Things look encouraging this morning, with hope that unless there are changes in meteorological conditions, today might be the last day of flames, and that it might, indeed, be stabilized within hours, say Canarian Government Protección Civil y Emergencias chief Humberto Gutiérrez and Tenerife Cabildo President Ricardo Melchior. They confirm that currently the perimeter of the fire is 4,000 hectares, with 1,000 hectares completely burnt.
Sr Melchior said that he would be meeting with mayor of Vilaflor Manuel Fumero to assess the situation in the municipality, and that it was hoped residents could return home today. Flames are hugely reduced from yesterday, though the fire remains active, he said.
Humberto Gutiérrez said that firefighting had been intensified to contain the west flank and that it was stabilized in Taucho and Ifonche, but there would be a problem if the wind picked up again. Residents of La Quinta and Taucho are already allowed back to their houses, but those of Tijoco Alto and Ifonche must remain evacuated for the moment. Water planes will be back in action today, and the main thing on the agenda is to stop the fire spreading to the Chio mountain, from where it would then spread to Santiago del Teide. The mayors of both municipalities met last evening to discuss co-ordinated plans.
Update 10.00pm: I’m sure you’ll all appreciate how happy I am to see this – even if it’s not the most usual of photos! Just to the left of where you can see in the photo there is indeed still a sickening red glow in the sky, which is where Tágara is on fire, but the official line is that no property is in danger tonight, and so we can all at least relax for a few hours and try to get some sleep. Tomorrow, hopefully the planes will make further inroads, and we’ll have to start hoping like mad that the fire doesn’t reach the Chio mountain. But for tonight, this makes me very happy.
Update 9pm: Below is one of the two planes that are still flying over us constantly, even as dusk is falling.
Update 8.30pm: Residents of Taucho and La Quinta are now able to return to their homes, at last, while Tenerife Cabildo President Ricardo Melchior says the fire is cornered. Meanwhile we have two hydroplanes flying over us constantly on their way to Tágara to drop water and back to collect more. We await the dark to see whether there are still flames above us – there is some smoke, but if there is not a bright orange glow I will be very happy.
Update 4pm: Just so we have a realistic idea of what we’re dealing with here, the official line is now that it is going to take weeks, not days, to extinguish the fire.
On the subject of Arona’s call for food and drink for volunteer firefighters, it’s not clear how it’s hoped this is to be co-ordinated but it seems they would like the public to contact tourist information offices. They are linking to THIS page, which gives the details of the various ones.
Update 3.45: Sad news. The fire has not come to a halt in the lava field as hoped and as of 3pm is heading for the Chio forest and the mountains in Santiago del Teide. A group of Santiago del Teide firemen were lucky to escape with their lives as conditions changed and they were in danger of being encircled by the flames. They are safe, mercifully, but the fire is now heading back to 2007 territory.
Update 3.30pm: Arona Ayuntamiento has requested food and drink assistance for volunteers in firefighting efforts. If anyone can help, please contact the Ayuntamiento – see twitter.com/TurismoArona and the official Arona Turismo page HERE.
Update 2pm: As I said earlier, the water planes are up with us right now. Quite a few flights over. The focus is the Tágara forest above us. Mayor of Guía de Isora has actually given that up for dead, it’s gone and it can’t be extinguished, but they can stop it spreading. They must stop it spreading because if not, it will reach the Chio mountain and Santiago del Teide – and we’ll have 2007 all over again on a far worse scale.
Update 1.45pm: The residents of Vilaflor will not hear about being able to return home until the fire around the town is confirmed as under control. Around an hour ago the wind changed direction and has reactivated two focuses of the fire there. Efforts were already Herculean and the weather is just not helping. Nonetheless, Tenerife Cabildo President Ricardo Melchior says that he expects all fronts of the fire – apart from the one in Guía de Isora – to be stabilized by mid afternoon.
Update 12.20: Both water planes over us right now in Vera de Erques – attacking the fire in the Tágara forest
Update 11.30am: The Cabildo has closed the TF51 La Camella – Vilaflor road from km14 because of dense smoke making visibility impossible.
Update 10am: Government press release, 8am:
In the end it was not necessary to create a firebreak to save Vilaflor. The firefighting efforts in the municipios of Adeje, Vilaflor and Guía de Isora are developing favourably, except in the focus of fire affecting the Tágara area and Vilaflor, where resources are centred to try to stop the fire which jumped a line of defence near the football field this morning. The rest of the Vilaflor perimeter is stabilized.
As far as the active flanks are concerned, Vilaflor is stabilized from Boca Tauce – TF21. Lower down, lines of defence for Lirios – TF51, Trevejos- Balsa de Trevejos are being carried out and it looks hopeful they can be stabilized. This is where teams from the Cabildo de Tenerife and the Unidad Militar de Emergencias (UME) based in Los Rodeos are concentrated.
Regarding the Tijoco Alto & Vera de Erques flank, the situation is largely unchanged from yesterday with a slow advance, and in the north-west Tágara zone the fire is advancing as anticipated.
In the early hours and as a preventative measure, one resident of the Caserío de Fuente in Guía de Isora was evacuated. Of those evacuated from Vilaflor, 48 stayed in the Granadilla refuge overnight.
Update 9am: An air and land reconnaissance will be carried out this morning to evaluate the possibility of Vilaflor residents returning to their homes. More information at 1pm. The tally as of this morning for evacuations is that some 2,200 people have had to leave their homes in the areas of Tijoco Alto, La quinta, Vilaflor, Taucho, Chio and Chirche. How the hell did we escape that?
Update 8.45am: First water planes and helicopters over Vilaflor at 8.20am. Fire still going strong, but stable.
Update 7.45 am: Well outside it’s smoky, but I can’t see actual flames, and at one point in the night they were already over the ridge and coming for us. I feel incredibly emotional about these firemen – they have been with us all night, literally keeping the fire away with their hands rather than water, which was being saved for the houses in case it got that close. Why the hell these aren’t paid as a professional force I just don’t know because they’re that and more.
There’s a press conference at 8am, and I’ve only seen one headline yet, having had about two hours sleep, so I’ll update as soon as I have anything particular to say, but we’re safe, and still here, and the one headline I’ve seen says that the Vilaflor fire is stabillized. Looks like the town is saved. Amazing the things that can make you cry, isn’t it?
Update 18 July 00.40: Chirche was evacuated at 11pm tonight. Like Vilaflor, a precautionary evacuation because the fire isn’t in the village. Report from Titsa again, as with Vilaflor. In Vera de Erques, much of the village is out in the square, where there’s an ambulance based. Fire engines over at the barranco. Just above us it’s blazing up and then dying back, with a horrible glow to the left, which is probably where it’s approaching Chirche. We’re doing shifts tonight …
Update 11pm: Government press release,1opm tonight:
Aircraft have been concentrating today in fighting the east flank of the fire, which has been the more difficult. This part of the fire extends from the lower part of the TF-21 to Vilaflor, which is why the order to evacuate the town was given at 6pm by the Plan Canario de Protección Civil y Atención de Emergencias por Incendios Forestales (INFOCA). This is ease the attempt to put this flank of the fire out during tonight. The Government asked the residents to be calm and stressed that the most important thing was to safeguard lives, and that during the night it was hoped to create a firebreak as a line of defence.
The west flank, situated above Tijoco and Taucho, is being fought by the Unidad Militar de Emergencias, UME, and is controlled for the moment. The north part is stabilized and the south tail is anchored. The part of the west fire heading for the peak looks to be going towards a lava field which could help to control it.
In total, 2,000 hectares have been affected so far. The closed roads are still: TF-567, La Escalona – Ifonche; TF- 583, Taucho; TF-585. Tijoco Alto; TF-38 Chío – Boca Tauce; and TF-21 Vilaflor – Boca Tauce.
Incidents to mention are two traffic accidents involving fire engines, the first at 4.45pm on the tF1 at Eras, Arico, resulted in a fireman suffering minor injuries who was evacuated to Hospital Universitario de Canarias, the other at 5.09pm in Güímar, without injuries.
Tomorrow morning at first light 11 aircraft will join the fight against the fire: 3 hydroplanes and 3 helicopters (1 Kamov and 2 Brif), 3 search and rescue helicopters from the Grupo de Emergencias y Salvamento (GES) of the Gobierno de Canarias, a Tenerife Cabildo helicopter and another from the Cabildo de Gran Canaria.
By land, a large number of Tenerife Cabildo Environment personnel will continue firefighting together with teams from the Consorcio de Bomberos de Tenerife. The army has 222 personnel and 38 vehicles which are involved in the firefighting efforts as well.
The Servicio de Urgencias Canario (SUC) has ambulances and rapid intervention vehicles, and the company TASISA has put a further ambulance with personnel at the disposition of SUC. Also, the Government team is being supported by the Policía Canaria, Guardia Civil and Policía Local from Adeje, Arona, Vilaflor and Guía de Isora.
Update 10.20pm: I can’t seem to take photos in the dark, but the fire is now right at the top of our hill. We haven’t had an evacuation order but it’s getting a bit close for comfort. We’re staying put, at least for the moment, but given the speed that this seems to be coming down our hill we’ve got our important stuff together and packed up the car. We’re ready to go if they tell us to.
The computer will be the last thing to leave, and it’s coming with me, so I hope to be able to continue updating as things unfold. Who knows, maybe the next thing I’ll be able to post will be in a much more pleasant vein.
Update 9.00pm: Could this be the break we need? Humberto Gutiérrez, Dirección General de Seguridad y Emergencias, has confirmed in a press release a few minutes ago that the west flank of the fire, the most virulent one towards Guía de Isora, is heading for a lava field area and it is hoped – god how it’s hoped – that it will burn itself out there. Sr Gutiérrez said that “we hope to extinguish it between tomorrow and the day after tomorrow”. He also confirmed that the fire engines I posted about are here, as in other villages near the fire, to put out small outbreaks. The one problem is the area of Tágara, which is inaccessible, he said.
Update 8.45pm: For the last hour and a half, waves in Los Cristianos have prevented the hydroplanes from taking on water. They have shifted to TFS to load.
Update 7-30pm: Four fire engines now stationed in Vera de Erques
Update 7pm: Both hydroplanes over us this minute dropping water above Vera de Erques.
Update 6.15pm: Tragically confirmed. The Guardia Civil is beginning to evacuate Vilaflor.
Update 6pm: Titsa is saying that there has been an order to evacuate Vilaflor and that it has buses ready to evacuate those who can’t get out under their own means. I can find no other confirmation of this, so I hope it’s wrong, but Titsa isn’t a reckless source.
Update 5.45pm: A fire engine from Tegueste has overturned onto the central barrier the TF1 near Las Eras, Arico, as it headed south to help with firefighting efforts. The accident happened around 4.45pm, and one of the firemen was trapped inside. After being rescued, he was transferred to hospital by helicopter. The motorway was shut for a time for the helicopter to land.
Update 5pm: We’ve just had a hydroplane over us dropping water uphill. What an uplifting sight that is!
Update 4pm: A resident of La Martela, Vilaflor, says she has just witnessed a hydroplane overhead which dropped its water , and that a second plane had just dropped as well. Let’s hope it works.
Update 3pm: Guía de Isora mayor Pedro Martín has said that contingency plans are being put in place in case Vera de Erques, Chirche, Chío and Chiguergue have to be evacuated this evening. Buses are on standby, refuges ready. At the moment the situation is very dangerous in the Tágara area, an old and dense forest between the Barranco de Erques and the Boca Tauce road which is said to be highly combustible. A fire control cordon is in place taking advantage of lava fields, with firefighters from Guía de Isora and Santiago del Teide trying to stop any fire breaking out. They are also on standby for the villages in the area to try to extinguish any outbreak quickly before it spreads. Very near to home now.
Update 1.45pm: Guía de Isora Ayuntamiento has now placed a public notice on its website (HERE) denying that they need water lorries. This was a hoax. Policía Local beg people to stop phoning. Meanwhile, water planes will be collecting water from Los Cristianos harbour around 2pm.
Update 1pm: Press now widely reporting what I was sadly able to post at 8am this morning. The fire is now confirmed as in the National Park.
Update 11.30am: Water plane now in Tenerife and should be active any minute.
Update 11am: I have just spoken direct to the Policía Local at Guía de Isora and they say that they do not need water lorries and that the report was a hoax that was, unfortunately, picked up by FB, TV stations, etc. They ask that people stop calling them because it is tying up their lines, and that the Policía Local have not been co-ordinating efforts, which under a Level 2 alert are being run by the Government of the Canaries.
Update 9.15am: The fire has reached the Barranco de Erques. We’ve just had sirens and fire engines … it’s here.
Update 9am: Intensive efforts are still ongoing in the national park but it seems they’re getting somewhere with the left arm of the fire that was heading to Guía de Isora but efforts have now intensified there. There’ll be another press conference at 1pm.
Update 17 July 8am: One of the saddest pictures I could take. Straight up the hill, looking up directly at the crater, behind which is the cone of Teide, and the flames are clearly visible in the highest forest. It’s like a scene from … I don’t know any more. I could just cry. We have raining ash, intense heat, apparently it’s safe even though the western arm of the fire is still burning out of control. Part of the fire right at the top is being contained, it seems, but this morning’s news hasn’t really started filtering through. Helicopters are already flying uphill over us with water, and of course today we should have the waterplanes and the extra troops. Let’s hope they can get in control today, but it’s too late. It’s in the national park.
Update 11.30pm: A contingent of 110 from the Emergency Military Unit are heading for Tenerife and La Palma from the mainland. Three water planes from Seville are also coming to help the firefighting efforts on both islands. The Canarian Government is arranging with the Ports Authority for the planes to take water from Los Cristianos harbour. The details were given by Tenerife President Ricardo Melchior and Gobcan Protección Civil chief Humberto Gutiérrez in a press conference this evening.
Sr Melchior said that although they had hopes this morning of getting the fire under control, the situation hasn’t improved and he doubted that the situation would change over the next several hours. The fire still has two fronts, one of which is heading west to an area of barrancos where it has already entered into the pine forest, and the other towards the east – which is the front that is threatening Vilaflor.
Unfortunately, with the wind conditions, the technicians said that the fire is certain to continue west, and that it was very likely that the barrancos could act as chimneys, drawing fire upwards into the mountains. To try to avoid this, works are ongoing to set controlled fires set so as to act as firebreaks, which will be some of the smaller blazes that are visible.
Update 10pm: The fire has now reached the Las Lajas area above Vilaflor – most may know this as a recreation area for BBQs. Buses have been laid on for any residents of Vilaflor who want to leave, but there is no official evacuation at the moment. The fire has now affected 2,200 hectares.
Update 8.40pm: and not to forget the other islands too. There are also fires burning on La Gomera and La Palma. The La Gomera fire is in Alojera and started in a plantation, while the La Palma one is in the El Pilar region.
Update 8.30pm: Guía de Isora police deny they need water lorries. Their phones are paralysed by calls and the information is wrong.
Update 7.30pm: And now it is quite literally all hands to the pumps. Vilaflor is in real danger and they are throwing everything at stopping the fire reaching it.
Update 3pm: The fire’s perimeter has now increased to 1,800 hectares, and it is said to have two active fronts. Both are now “dangerously out of control” due to the difficulty of fighting them as a result of the terrain, and because the weather has worsened – it is hotter, and a wind has started to blow. The fire is heading rapidly for Vilaflor and the national park, and damage to either or both would be a huge tragedy.
Fire teams are working from the TF21, the road going up through Vilaflor and on through the crater. The public are begged to stay away. Nothing can be done to help the professionals, and the curious are actually making it harder to put out the fire and endangering the lives of the firefighting teams. The TF38 (Chio access), TF21 (Vilaflor access), TF585 (Tijoco Alto), TF583 (Taucho) and TF 567 (Escalona-Ifonche) roads are all closed to traffic.
The mayor of Guía de Isora, speaking on the radio earlier, said that at present the municipality was not in immediate danger, and that its salvation, the Barranco de Erques, was the national park’s tragedy, because the fire was being pushed uphill. Just before clicking “submit” I did a last check – the headlines are devastating: “El incendio a las Puertas de El Teide” – the fire is at Teide’s door.
Update 10.30am: The Government says the fire is now on level 3, and has reached Tijoco Alto.
Update 9.45: Here’s a picture of the scene outside this morning. The smoke is almost obscuring the sun, which is barely visible in the photo, but when the smoke swirls away, the disc of the sun is blood red. We’re now walking through ash to get that photo.
Update 9am: The authorities and firefighting teams have asked the public to stay away because they are hindering rather than helping. They say that the public’s concern is much appreciated, but the firefighting teams are professional – in the widest meaning of the word – and even the large numbers of volunteer firefighters are specially trained.
Update 8.30am: Tijoco Alto, the next village to us, is now being evacuated as a precautionary measure. Also reports that the Chio/Boca de Tauce and Vilaflor/Boca de Tauce roads are closed to allow firefighting traffic free access. It’s at Adeje’s boundaries now, and Guía de Isora and Arona are both on alert. Confirmed that we have seven helicopters firefighting this morning. President of Tenerife says it looks as though it could well have been started deliberately.
Update 8am: The air is thick with smoke this morning and it looks less like Hell than a Mordor scene from Lord of the Rings. The tally so far is some 1,200 hectares burnt, and still two active fire fronts one of which is contained, though not yet under control. The other, though, heading west, is still out of control and burning wildly.
This is where the main firefighting efforts, including the army Emergency Unit and now helicopters again, are now concentrated in order to try to stop it getting to the villages which were evacuated yesterday, and of course to stop it getting nearer to the villages further up the west coast like Tijoco Alto, Vera de Erques, and Tejina de Isora.
Update 16 July 1am: A forestry vehicle has just raced up our lane to look around, so it seems they could be expecting it to spread further west, and much nearer to us. Helicopters have not been flying since 8pm, and will resume with the light at 7am. The mayor of Adeje says it’s going to be a very hard night for firefighters. The photo below is poor but I hope it gives the idea of what it’s like. There’s ash everywhere outside, the air tastes of fire, and it looks like Hell.
Update midnight: There are now five army emergency unit lorries ready for action on the main road to Guía de Isora.
Update 11pm: There are three fires, spaced out along the hill facing us and stretching up into the forest areas. Emergency services say that the topmost fire is heading at speed towards the peak pine forest, the fire at the top of the Barranco del Infierno is under control, and the other is heading west towards Guía de Isora. Some 100 hectares have been burnt so far, and between 70 and 100 people have been evacuated from Ifonche, Taucho and La Quinta.
Update 10.20pm: This is the view from the next village along from us, further away from the fire, which is now just two villages away from us. It would have to cross a huge barranco to get to us, so we’re thankful for small mercies, but it’s still a tragic sight. Thanks to Chuck Urmson for the photo.
Update 9.55: The Taucho and La Quinta areas are now being evacuated. The mayor of Adeje is in the area himself leading the security efforts; residents are advised to take maximum care and precautions.
Update 9.05pm: Oh no, it’s in the forest.
Update 9pm: It now looks as though it has got quite a hold in one particular area, and the smoke is billowing and black, as can be seen in the following photo. Around 40 acres are said to be burnt in the top of the Barranco del Infierno area.
Update 7pm: The smoke is quite a bit more extensive now, but far lighter and not billowing so much, so hopefully it means the firefighting is having some effect. Meanwhile we have the taste of smoke and flakes of ash falling in the garden. Walkers, including a dozen walking the still-closed-off Barranco del Infierno, and residents in the Ifonche area have been evacuated. The TF567, from the La Escalona junction to Ifonche has been closed off while firefighting efforts continue.
Update 5.30pm: The above photo is what it’s like now at 5.30pm, and very sadly it seems that it has spread to the Barranco del Infierno.
Update 5pm: Emergency services have just confirmed that the fire is in the Ifonche region. At present it’s in on agricultural land but is at risk of spreading to forest areas. Up to three helicopters are firefighting.
Update 4.55pm: It’s clear that at least one helicopter is fighting the fire because it just flew directly overhead.
Original post 4.45pm: There’s a forest fire burning in the Tijoco area. It’s unclear exactly where because from our garden it’s over the hill, and Tijoco Alto is the nearest village, though a little further on there is also Taucho. It’s been burning now for around an hour and is creating quite a bit of smoke, as the above photo just taken shows.