Photo: Ejército del Aire
Updated 1pm: Following the Canarian Government’s decision last night to lift the forest fire risk alert in Tenerife, this lunchtime the Cabildo has lifted its ban on fires in recreational areas and activities posing a fire risk in mountain and forested areas. The Cabildo nonetheless recommends that the public takes the utmost precautions in these areas when doing anything that could represent a risk of accidentally starting a fire.
Updated 18 July: As the heatwave passes, the Canarian Government lifted the alert for forest fire risk in Tenerife as of 10pm last night. There were some dramatic images around midnight of a fire in an area of stubble and palm trees near the refinery in Santa Cruz but bomberos say there was no danger to the refinery or its installations and as of 1am the fire was declared under control. The TF4 junction with the TF1 was closed while firefighters were in operation but is now reopened.
Updated 16 July: A man is under investigation for starting a fire yesterday morning in Taucho, Adeje, not far from the focal point of Tenerife’s last devastating major fire in 2012. As on that occasion, it seems to be not a case of deliberate arson, but of carelessness, with a power tool’s sparks setting fire to some agricultural rubble in a nearby finca. Thankfully, without a high wind, the fire was contained by locals until bomberos, police and Brifor arrived to extinguish it. As announced by the Tenerife Cabildo only two days ago, such tools are banned while the Canarian Government’s forest fire alert is in place and while these weather conditions prevail.
Updated 14 July: The Tenerife Cabildo has banned fires in the mountains due to prevailing weather conditions. The ban will last until at least the end of the Canarian Government’s forest fire risk alert, and means a prohibition on machinery likely to cause sparks, fires in the recreational areas, burning agricultural residue, bonfires etc. Firework displays are also banned near forested areas. The authorities urge the public to take extreme care in any activities that could cause fire. Over the weekend teams will also be maintaining a presence on mountain access roads to inform drivers about the risk of forest fires. The Tenerife Cabildo pleads with the public to avoid using tracks and forested areas as much as possible during this hot spell.
Updated 13 July: With the heatwave expected over the next few days, and on the basis of the forest fire protocol (Plan Especial de Protección Civil y Atención de Emergencias por Incendios Forestales de Canarias – INFOCA), the Canarian Government has issued an alert this afternoon for forest fire risk from midnight tonight. At present the alert is open-ended. The public is urged to follow the advice from the Security and Emergencies Board, the English version of which I’ve posted HERE.
Updated 27 June: The Tenerife Cabildo has lifted the ban on mountain activities as temperatures return to more normal levels.
Updated 23 June: The Tenerife Cabildo has banned fires in the mountains due to prevailing weather conditions. That means no bonfires for San Juan, no machinery likely to cause sparks, and no fires in the recreational areas, so no BBQs. This hot spell is currently only forecast to be in place until Sunday and it is likely that the ban will remain in place while meteorological conditions continue.
Updated 12 June: In addition to the Canarian Government’s summer campaign against forest fires which was announced last month, the Tenerife Cabildo has now itself presented details of its own operational resources. These will comprise 287 personnel, 60 land-based vehicles and 11 helicopters, Tenerife president Carlos Alonso announced this morning. The insular campaign – Operativo Brifor de Prevención y Extinción de Incendios Forestales – will run from tomorrow, 13 June to 16 October, and will repeat protocols established over previous years.
President Alonso thanked the forestry brigades (BRIFOR) for their constant efforts, and the Canarian Government for its overarching coordination and additional resources this year to keep all the islands safe, prevent fires, and extinguish any outbreaks as quickly as possible. In addition to Operativo Brifor and the regional Government measures, there are other specialist fire-fighting organizations at work in Tenerife, including National Park agents, the Consorcio de Bomberos, and the Military Emergencies Unit (UME).
Cabildo environment councillor José Antonio Valbuena stressed that the majority of fires in the islands are human caused, whether cases of arson or carelessness, and said that the Cabildo was concerned to educate the public about necessary precautions so that everyone can enjoy the mountains safely. The Cabildo will also introduce exceptional measures as and when appropriate, most notably during spells of intense heat, which will include bans of all types of machinery and fires in the mountains, and closures of BBQ facilities in public recreational areas.
Updated 19 May: The Canarian Government has announced its forest fire fighting and prevention measures for this summer. The announcement was made in a presentation yesterday by Canarian President Fernando Clavijo with the Government’s Política Territorial, Sostenibilidad y Seguridad minister, Nieves Lady Barreto. Specialist helicopter units (Equipos de Intervención y Refuerzo Forestales – EIRIF) will cover all the islands, being physically based in La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro, the result of an investment of almost €3m over two years, explained the president.
The minister, for her part, emphasized that the creation of EIRIF represented fundamental progress in fire fighting and prevention in the Canaries, with the units’ capacity to intervene on any island when required being an important preventative measure which, although it couldn’t stop fires starting, allowed an improved response to extinction and early assistance to stop fires spreading. Each squad will comprise 24 personnel including a technician, a foreman, and 6 specialists, and so together with 3 coordination technicians and 3 physical trainers, there will be 78 additional operatives integrated into the islands’ existing intervention resources.
The units will act as reinforcement for the existing Cabildo cover which each island has in its own right, and will be employed between June and October, the high season for forest fire risk, whenever a fire exceeds insular level and requires a coordinated regional response from the Canarian Government. This will be of particular importance should fires break out on more than one island simultaneously. There will also be a hidroavion from Madrid based in the islands, and the training exercises for that were taking place recently between Gran Canaria and Tenerife.
Updated 9 May: The Air Force has announced that hidroavion training is taking place in the Canaries today and tomorrow in preparation for whatever fights the water planes will have to face in summer. They will take the opportunity to familiarize themselves once again with the characteristics of the terrain here should any intervention be necessary. Although based in Gran Canaria for the training, it’s possible that we’ll get a glimpse of them here – their water loading manoevres are something to behold!
The planes’ presence is part of the service that Madrid promised would be provided to these islands every summer. Last year it was not required at all. Let’s hope that it won’t be required this year either, and that its lack of action doesn’t call its presence into question for next year, because each year that passes without a major fire adds more fuel to the fire when it does come.
Original post 12 March: Last year’s post on forest fires in Tenerife was the shortest ever. It was a complete mercy only to have to post in July about fewer than a handful of fires. This year, however, has started early, with the unseasonal heatwave bringing hot winds to Tenerife, and an outbreak in the hills above La Orotava last evening caused quite a scare for the authorities.
The Cabildo says that the fire broke out around 8pm near Aguamansa, in an abandoned orchard in Cueva El Negro, and that it was whipped up by the high winds. There were no dwellings in the area, however, so no-one was at physical risk, and the fire was brought under control by bomberos and the forestry brigade, BRIFOR, coordinated by La Orotava Ayuntamiento, within an hour or so, haing affected half an acre. BRIFOR continued working at the site damping the ground down fully to prevent the fire restarting, and it was declared extinguished around 11pm.