Photo: Tenerife Cabildo
Updated 26 August: It looks as though we have another few hot days in store, with a calima expected to arrive from tomorrow and lasting until Wednesday or so. We are to expect heat and dusty air, it seems, with cloud in the medianías and at altitude, and the possibility of some dirty raindrops. Temperatures could get back up to near 40º again.
Updated 16 August: The Canarian Government yesterday lifted its Forest Fire Risk alert, and today, the Tenerife Cabildo has lifted its ban on fires in the mountain. The BBQs are open again, as are forest tracks.
Updated 7pm: In Madeira, the two main fires, one of which was burning in the capital, Funchal, have been declared “under control” and are now in “extinguishing” phase.
Updated 3pm: The Tenerife Cabildo has already drawn attention to the forthcoming pilgrim walk to Candelaria for the major fiesta there this Monday, the 15th (see HERE), and announced that it has introduced a range of measures to ensure safety for the public, ordinary road users, and of course, to ensure that the fire risk is minimised from such numbers on the move. As I posted on the 8th, the full details of those measures are HERE, but now the Cabildo says that given the high risk of fire, it has decided to ban the following mountain routes for anyone thinking of making the pilgrimage.
Updated 1pm: The Canarian Government has this lunchtime declared the La Palma fire “under control” and has reduced the protocol to level 1, leaving the extinguishing works in the control of the La Palma Cabildo, though with assistance from Government crews. The fire, which started on 3 August has burnt 12,000 acres, and has obliged some 3,000 to leave their homes at some point over the past nine days. Around 600 firefighting personnel of one kind or another have been involved, working in shifts of 300 a time. At last!
Updated 12 August: The Canarian Government has finalized its Maximum Alert for forest fire risk for La Palma, and now the Forest Fire Risk Alert level is “ordinary” for the western islands and Gran Canaria. The Government says that the decision to reduce the Maximum Alert level was taken after consultation with the met office Aemet and other civil protection and forest fire agenies. The weather has cooled down to normal August levels of high 20ºs and low-mid 30ºs throughout the islands, and so the Canarian Government finalized its Heatwave Alert as of 8pm last evening. The cooler weather will also help firefighting efforts in La Palma, where things are looking much better even though there’s no official “under control” statement as yet.
Updated 6pm: The latest in Madeira is that there are three fires still active, including the one in the upper area of Funchal; fires are also still burning in Câmara de Lobos and the Prezeres-Calheta area. Some 150 dwellings have been destroyed, and more than 3,000 people, including tourists, have been evacuated. The main suspect of the arson is in custody but a further four suspects have been identified and could be detained in the near future.
Updated 3pm: Gobcan statement on the La Palma fire issued at 2.54pm.
Some 60 ground crew continue today, Thursday, to work towards extinguishing the fire which has been burning on La Palma since 3 August. At the moment, the fire is stabilized, but not under control. Throughout the morning, two helicopters have been flying over the affected area, one releasing water where there have been renewed outbreaks such as the one that revived this morning in the hills above Tacande in the El Paso area, within the perimeter that has been stabilized. That outbreak has now been extinguished. The second helicopter is deployed checking that the perimeter remains stabilized.
Firefighting air resources which remain in La Palma are a GES (Government search and rescue) helicopter and a (Spanish Government’s) BRIF-A helicopter. The rest of the air resources which have been in La Palma remain ready for action in their respective bases. The Canarian Government is maintaining its Fire Risk Alerts at maximum for La Palma, and ordinary level for Tenerife, Gran Canaria, La Gomera and El Hierro. The heatwave alert remains in place also throughout the whole archipelago.
Updated 2pm: The new outbreak this morning on La Palma is evidence, say Bomberos La Palma, that there is still much more to be done before they can talk of extinguishing the Jedey fire, but this morning’s latest flare-up in the Cabeza de Vaca track and Llano El Jable is now under control thanks to La Laguna bomberos and Caldera de Taburiente national park crews. In the last half hour, the last military emergency personnel have left La Palma, leaving local firefighting teams to bring this nightmare to an end, which they say they hope to do over the next 24 hours.
The German who started the fire has been named as Scott Verdine Stumpf, and police say that he was already known to them. Apparently he was detained in February this year in Maspalomas, Gran Canaria, for animal abuse. He is currently remanded in custody while the investigation into the fire continues, and faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison.
Updated 11 August: The La Palma fire remains contained and stabilized but still not fully under control, and in the last few hours with hot winds blowing one part has flared up again. Air resources continue their attempts to tackle the blaze for what is now the eighth day. In Madeira, several mainly arson-caused fires continue to blaze including the one which has devastated Funchal. There are reports that a fourth person has died but the details are still sketchy at this point. Slightly cooler and less windy weather is expected from this evening which it is hoped will aid the efforts in both islands.
Updated 5pm: A helicopter has fallen as it was attempting to fight the fire in La Palma. The helicopter was part of the BrifPuntagorda (La Palma forest fire unit) team, which confirms that all the crew are fine. Miraculously, no-one was harmed.
Updated 2pm: The latest statistics from Madeira are 3 dead, 1 missing, 347 receiving medical assistance (80 of them as in-patients), 950 evacuated, 37 dwellings and 3 hotels “affected” (not sure to what extent). This is a Dantesque photo of the fire from local forest firefighters … this is not a mountain village, it’s the island capital, Funchal.
Updated 10 August: The La Palma fire is still burning, even though it has been contained for the past two days. Hopes that it might be brought under control yesterday were not fulfilled and today the heat has returned along with high winds. This is now the seventh day of the fire, but with the perimeter stabilized, it is unlikely to spread further. Small mercies, as firefighters continue to what must be the point of utter exhaustion.
Meanwhile, in our neighbouring island of Madeira, local reports say that a 24-year-old has been arrested for arson after causing a fire which has now reached the centre of the capital, Funchal. There are horrendous photos – the one below is widely available on social media and in the press, and has not been retouched or edited. Canarian president Fernando Clavijo has also shared it, and said he is very concerned by the Madeira fire, and put the Canaries at the disposal of the honorary Spanish consul in Funchal in case there is anything we can do to help. Madeira’s is a terrible fire, with firemen called in from all over Portugal to assist, two hospitals evacuated – because of the flames, not just as a precaution – and tragically, three of the city’s residents dead already.
Updated 2pm: The Canarian Government wishes to express publicly its acknowledgement of the exceptional and heroic work which has been done over the past several days by firefighting and environmental teams in La Palma. The Government says that the commitment of these men and women to their work and to the Canaries should be applauded by the whole society. In one case, of course, that commitment and heroism resulted in the tragic death of Francisco José Santana, to whose family and friends the Government says it offers its commiserations and assurance that the Canarian people will not forget him.
In the same public acknowledgement, the Government expresses its gratitutde to all the public administrations throughout these islands which have helped La Palma fight the fire, from the outset contributing personnel, air and ground transport, and materials. That “the Canarian people are as one”, the Government’s statement said, is not just a phrase but is self-evident, as has again been shown this last week with gestures of support and help coming from all corners of these islands, with everyone doing their bit to contribute to the fight. The Government said it is grateful to every one of them.
The Government also expressed its thanks to those units that have come from the mainland, being army emergency units and sea planes from the Spanish Air Force, and finally, to the people of La Palma, the Government said thank you for their exemplary attitude through such difficult days, their help, support, patience, at every moment, have all helped the fire fighting effort.
From 2pm this afternoon, even though the fire risk alert remains in place, the Government has reduced its level from maximum (latest alert above). As I posted previously, there are another couple of hot days in store for Tenerife, but the weather alert from the met office is only a yellow for temperatures to 34º. The Tenerife Cabildo, however, drew attention to the forthcoming pilgrim walk to Candelaria for the fiesta there next monday, the 15th (see HERE), and has introduced a range of measures to ensure safety for the public, ordinary road users, and of course, to ensure that the fire risk is minimised from such numbers on the move: the full details of those measures are HERE.
Updated 11.30am: The Canarian Government says this lunchtime that all fronts of the La Palma fire are now stabilized. There will be a meeting this afternoon to coordinate firefighting measures that will still need to be taken over the next few days. The maximum fire risk alert remains in place for all islands and the Government asks the public to take the utmost care and follow official signs and advice.
Updated 8 August: There is no real change in the La Palma situation this morning but there’s a sense of real optimism, as well as coolness, in the air today. The Canarian Government and the La Palma Cabildo say that there is clear hope that the active and uncontrolled Mazo flank of the fire will be brought under control today, the sixth day of the fire. The Red Cross has compiled this montage of photos which show what conditions have been, and remain, like.
Updated 3.30pm: The Canarian Government this afternoon lifted its alert for maximum temperatures and reverted to pre-alert status as from 3.30pm. The pre-alert is kept in place because although the weather is slightly cooler today and will remain so tomorrow, there is a further yellow alert from Aemet for temperatures to 34º on Tuesday. The Government stresses that this refers to alerts for heat, and that its maximum alert for fire risk throughout the Canaries remains in place.
Updated 3pm: The Spanish Air Force says that another sea plane has been drafted in to help fight the fire which is still blazing out of control on the Mazo front. The plane took off from Malaga around 1pm, and will join the other three already working here in every daylight minute available to fly. Meanwhile the residents evacuated last night have been allowed to return home, and the live stream I posted just below has terminated for the moment … I understand it will resume at 7pm.
Updated 2pm: As of an hour ago, local politician Juan Arturo San Gil Ayut has set up this live feed from Mazo.
Updated 7 August: While all is looking more encouraging on the two fronts that are under control, the Mazo front which was said yesterday to have intensified is causing a new set of problems, and all efforts are now focused on the El Cabrito area, which is very difficult territory for ground crews. Since the air teams don’t operate after dark, the Canarian Government evacuated some 500 residents shortly after midnight as a precautionary measure in Montes de Luna and the upper part of Tigalate.
Meanwhile, the German thought to have started the original blaze was in Court yesterday to give evidence. The Guardia Civil says that he was refused bail and has been remanded in custody while the investigation continues.
Updated 7pm: At least two fronts of the La Palma fire are now under control, and as ground and air crew continue to fight other fronts and to bring it all under control, the vast majority of people who had to leave their homes have been allowed to go home. The evening heat continues to abate, and although there is an alert tomorrow in La Palma and Tenerife, it’s “just” a yellow alert for temperatures to 34º between midday and 6pm. This is passing …
Updated 6 August: Firefighters have managed through the night to stop the La Palma fire spreading any further, though the southern flank has intensified. At least no part of the fire has reached any residential areas so no more people have had to be evacuated. Nine helicopters and three sea planes resumed the firefighting efforts at first light, rejoining the 350 ground crew who are now on their fourth day with hardly any rest in appalling weather conditions.
Today, thankfully, it feels slightly cooler – it’s still way in the 30ºs, and that fact alone shows how hot it has actually been in the hills – and the wind has died down. Hopefully this will help their efforts to contain the blaze throughout today … and hopefully, too, will mean that the fire risk for Tenerife is slightly lessened.
Updated 11.30pm: The Canarian president said it was worsening, and tonight as they face the third night of horrendous conditions, firefighters now know that the fire has crossed the spine of south La Palma, the one thing all their efforts have been spent trying to avoid. It is now in the Mazo peaks of the Parque Natural de Cumbre Vieja, and further evacuations have started in the Monte de Luna area. The fire’s north front, at least, has been contained, and that, we must hope, will stop it spreading into the Taburiente national park.
The second outbreak in the Las Cabezadas area of Tijarafe which was stabilized this afternoon has now been declared under control. And in Tenerife too, the Abama fire, and an outbreak earlier in the Garachico area as well, are both under control. The whole of the Canaries remains on orange alert tomorrow for temperatures up to 37º, though these levels are frequently exceeded: the wind, at least, seems to have lessened.
Updated 6pm: Canarian president Fernando Clavijo says that the La Palma fire has reactivated on one of its flanks and that far from being brought under control, the situation has actually worsened. Over 300 personnel are fighting the fire, with some 8,500 acres burnt and 2,500 people moved from their homes for safety. Three water planes and nine helicopters are assisting ground crews but it’s going to be another long evening and night in La Palma.
Here in Tenerife, smoke is in the air in the west from a fire this afternoon in the Abama area. Three planations have been affected but the fire is now under control.
Updated 1pm: Another fire broke out earlier on La Palma, in the Las Cabezadas area of Tijarafe, but it has now been stabilized after air resources were diverted to deal with it while all other efforts concentrated on the two fronts of the southern fire. That has risen to the Cumbre Vieja area, and lower down the slopes some residents are themselves fighting a rearguard action to defend their own homes which are being approached by flames: they say that all the fire teams are engaged in the mountains. Desperate times for La Palma.
Updated 10am: You don’t often see this. The whole of the Canaries on Aemet orange alert for high temperatures. In Tenerife, up to 37º is forecast, but at 1km altitude in the west it was at 38º by 9am this morning, and with a howling hot sandy gale. The orange alert is in place for today and tomorrow. Sunday looks as though conditions will start to improve, but it won’t start to feel cooler for a little while yet.
Updated 5 August: Ground crews were in operation through the night of course, but at first light airbone firefighting teams rejoined the efforts to put out the La Palma fire, which continues to blaze out of control. There are now eight helicopters and three sea planes involved, the two from the southern mainland having arrived to join the plane stationed in the Canaries during the summer. Tenerife has further contributed Brifor and volunteer firefighters from Adeje, La Laguna and Santiago del Teide who join today’s efforts. The La Palma Cabildo has announced that the entire network of walking routes throughout the island is closed to the public, as are recreational areas; some roads, too, have been closed to traffic, and a range of planned social and cultural activities has been postponed.
Here in Tenerife, the Cabildo is doing everything it can to avoid a repeat the devastating fires of 2007 and 2012. The public has been asked to avoid mountain areas in general, and any activities that represent a fire risk have been banned, including camping.
Updated 11pm: And tonight, with humidity plummeting close to single figures, and a hot wind blowing strongly, the La Palma fire is blazing beyond any hope of control, and spreading. Emergency services say that they are evacuating around 1800 residents of the El Charco, Las Indias, Los Canarios and the sadly appropriately named Los Quemados areas tonight. And with 2,500 displaced people and the fire raging amidst temperatures approaching 40º, what the firefighting crews are facing tonight is unimaginable.
Updated 8pm: Sadly, it seems that hopes to get the La Palma fire contained before today is out were optimistic. Canarian President Fernando Clavijo has sought to manage expectations by saying that the fire is fierce and spreading, and that weather conditions mean it is likely to get worse before it gets better. It seems that two further water planes have arrived from the southern mainland, and a second military emergency unit is to join the firefighting efforts from Seville. Another long night seems in store for those fighting this fire, and la isla bonita will have a few more scars from which to recover before this is over. The latest is that the fire has already affected 5,000 acres and another residential area, El Charco in Fuencaliente, is being evacuated tonight. I hope that at least there won’t be any more fatalities tonight.
:Updated 5pm: With the calima already arriving, and tomorrow’s temperatures set to soar, and with the fire still blazing in La Palma, the Canarian Government has issued a Maximum Alert for fire risk starting at 8am tomorrow. It will remain in place until further notice. The regional Government directs the public to the official advice which I’ve published in English HERE.
In view of the Government’s alert, the Tenerife Cabildo itself has introduced a range of measures to minimise risk. José Antonio Valbuena, the Cabildo vicepresidente and environment councillor, and Bernabé Gutiérrez of Brifor, announced today that the weather conditions now arriving, and which will be at their worst tomorrow and Saturday, are forecast to be such that extreme measures are required. They say that the conditions are expected to affect the Canaries until Sunday, and that there will therefore be a ban on all mountain activities while the Canarian Government’s alert remains in place.
On behalf of the Cabildo the pair called on the public to avoid forest and mountain areas, and to take extreme care with any activity that could represent any fire risk. Naturally, no fires or fireworks are allowed in mountain and forest areas, nor BBQs or use of machine tools. Camping too has been banned, and Cabildo officials have today moved some 140 people who were in various recreational areas, with further evacuations still to take place this evening. Authorizations already given for mountain sports or camping have been temporarily revoked.
Finally, José Antonio Valbuena conveyed the sympathies of the Tenerife Cabildo to the family of Francisco Santana, now named as the park ranger who died in the La Palma fire, the first such death in the Canaries since 1984. He stressed that the measures taken today by the Cabildo were intended to avoid precisely such an eventuality in Tenerife. He confirmed that presently this island has sent 22 Brifor personnel over to La Palma, as well as two fire engines and two off-road vehicles to help with the efforts to put out the Jedey fire.
Updated 2.30pm: The Guardia Civil says that the 27-year-old German man they have arrested was of no fixed address, and had been using the forested area as a toilet. He claims that the fire started accidentally when he burnt the toilet paper he had used. He was picked up by a patrol car in the area it had gone to in order to close the road when the fire was first reported. In terms of the current state of the fire, the authorities say that they hope to be able to contain it within the course of today, and then turn their efforts to trying to get it under control. At present it is still blazing wildly out of control
Updated 4 August: The army military emergencies unit arrived in La Palma in the early hours and joined fire crews fighting the Jedey fire in La Palma. At first light, they were joined by 5 helicopters and the water plane that is now stationed in the Canaries in summer. One fireman has been injured, and tragically, a La Palma Cabildo environmental official has been killed in the Mendo area after becoming separated from the group he was with overseeing the firefighting efforts. A further 700 people have been evacuated from the Tacande, San Nicolás and Jedey areas. The following photos are both from the Cruz Roja, showing what they were facing last night, and how this morning still sees smoke billowing from the hillside as firefighting efforts continue to contain the blaze which is still burning out of control.
Updated 11.30pm: Thinking of La Palma tonight and the firefighters who will spend the night trying to get the Jedey-El Paso fire under control. At present it is spreading wildly up the mountain towards heavily forested areas, and with weather conditions very unfavourable for its containment. The fire has been declared a Level 2 which allows the Canarian Government to coordinate efforts given that air support has been sent from Gran Canaria and army emergency teams left from Tenerife, boarding an Armas ferry from Los Cristianos this evening.
A 27-year-old German resident has been detained by police for negligently starting the fire by burning garden waste in a remote dwelling. Walking routes have been closed, and some homes in the El Paso area have been evacuated as a precautionary measure. This is the horrific scene tonight, taken from los Llanos de Aridane.
Updated 3 August: In view of the forecast, which now includes a Met Office yellow alert for Tenerife on Friday with temperatures of up to 36º forecast along with high winds, the Canarian Government’s Dirección General Seguridad y Emergencias has issued a forest fire risk alert for the western islands of Tenerife, La Gomera, El Hierro … and La Palma, where a serious forest fire has broken out this afternoon in the western mountains accessible only to airborne firefighting services, which have been requested from other islands by the La Palma Cabildo. The alert also extends to Gran Canaria, which seeems set to have the hottest weather, and whose alert for Friday is orange for temperatures to 37º.
The forest fire risk alert is in place from this lunchtime and will remain in place until further notice. Official advice about the vastly increased risks of forest fires in hot windy conditions, and how best to prevent them, and to stay safe if caught in the vicinity of one is HERE. There is also information HERE on how to stay safe in heatwaves generally.
Updated 2 August: After a gorgeous few days with cooler and beautiful summer weather, it looks like the heat will start to return from Thursday, and will bring a calima with it, though the east winds that herald its arrival could be felt as early as tomorrow. The new hot front should last until at least the end of the weekend, with temperatures being up to 8º higher than the last few lovely days, and easily exceeding 40ºC in the eastern province and south Tenerife.
Updated 9pm: And with the lifting of the Canarian Government’s forest fire alert, the Tenerife Cabildo has lifted its ban on fires in mountain areas, including BBQs in the recreational areas.
Updated 27 July: The Government fire risk alert and Cabildo fire ban remain in place for the moment, but the Met Office alert for hot weather has been lifted today with the arrival of some slightly cooler air. What this has brought with it, however, is some very rough seas – costeros – around most of the island. Please be very careful in the sea, and see HERE for advice on how to stay safe in Tenerife’s waters.
Updated 5pm: And as usual with a Gobcan fire risk alert, the Tenerife Cabildo has itself introduced a ban on fires in mountain and forest areas. The ban will again mean that no agricultural burn-offs will be permitted, nor work with machinery, and of course fireworks and BBQs in recreational areas are ruled out as well. The ban will remain in place while weather conditions persist and until the Canarian Government lifts its fire risk alert. The Cabildo asks the public to avoid forest areas as much as possible until conditions improve and the ban is lifted. Conditions are presently expected to improve somewhat on Wednesday.
Updated 25 July: The Canarian Government has issued a forest fire risk alert for the western islands of Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, and for Gran Canaria. The alert is in place from this lunchtime and will remain in place until further notice. Official advice about the vastly increased risks of forest fires in hot windy conditions, and how best to prevent them, and to stay safe if caught in the vicinity of one is HERE.
Updated 24 July: And it’s coming back. Aemet has raised a yellow alert for temperatures up to 34º between midday and 6pm tomorrow in south, west and east Tenerife. At present the alert extends to Tuesday, but as always might be extended. Hopefully it won’t be accompanied by calima this time but that situation, too, can alter.
Updated 21 July: The yellow alert for heatwave ended at 6pm tonight. The calima remains, as does the heat, but just possibly the worst has passed … for now …
Updated 19 July: It mightn’t be as bad as they thought! Tomorrow’s orange alert has been reduced to yellow, and that yellow has been extended to Thursday. Temperatures to a maximum of 35º are expected.
Updated 2.30pm: The forecast for Wednesday is now a bit firmer, and there will be an uncomfortable few days in store with the coming heatwave accompanied by a heavy calima and very muggy conditions. These are expected to be the hottest days of the year so far, but also with an instability which could see some rain in parts. Although this could be stormy at times, it is far likelier just to be scattered drops.
Updated 18 July: It was only last night that the Canarian Government lifted its Fire Risk Alert, but Aemet has today put all of Tenerife except the north on yellow alert for high temperatures again tomorrow. The alert is in place from midday to 7pm, with temperatures of up to around 34º expected.
Updated 17 July: The Canarian Government’s Dirección General Seguridad y Emergencias has tonight lifted its Fire Risk Alert. Temperatures are expected to reduce slightly over the next few days, though a new heatwave is anticipated from the middle of the week.
Updated 14 July: The Tenerife Cabildo has introduced a ban on fires in mountain and forest areas in view of the Canarian Government’s fire risk alert which has been in place since 9am this morning, and further alert for heatwave tomorrow. As usual, the ban means that no agricultural burn-offs will be permitted, nor work with machinery, and of course fireworks and BBQs in recreational areas are ruled out as well. The ban will remain in place while weather conditions persist and until the Canarian Government lifts its fire risk alert. The Cabildo asks the public to avoid forest areas as much as possible over the next few days.
Updated 13 July: In view of the forecast, with the heat expected to crank up a gear tomorrow, the Canarian Government has issued a forest fire risk alert from 9am tomorrow morning in Tenerife, Gran Canaria, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro. Official advice about the vastly increased risks of forest fires in hot windy conditions, and how best to prevent them, and to stay safe if caught in the vicinity of one is HERE.
Original post 11 July: Aemet has raised a yellow alert for high winds and rough seas in Tenerife from tomorrow, and meteorologists are forecasting the arrival from Wednesday of a mass of hot air followed closely by a calima. Winds are expected to gust to around 80km/h, and temperatures should reach around 35º, up to 40º in the southern medianías, though it will feel much hotter in direct sunlight. The conditions are expected to last all this week and part of next.
Please be aware of some safety advice always issued by the authorities in this type of weather. First, please read HERE on how to stay safe in heatwaves. Also, please be aware of the vastly increased risks of forest fires in hot windy conditions, and how best to prevent them, and to stay safe if caught in the vicinity of one: see HERE. Finally, please take note of that yellow alert for rough seas. When it’s hot people understandably want to go in the sesa more than ever, but the dangers are even greater. Please read HERE and take extra care.