Gran Canaria fire finally declared under control

Photo: Gran Canaria Cabildo.

***This fire was finally declared extinguished at 4pm on Sunday 25 August. Please see HERE***

Updated 2.30pm: The Canarian Government has declared the Artenara fire under control this afternoon. The protocols will remain in place while ground crews are damping down and bringing the fire to final extinction. Air crews have been withdrawn. At last!

Updated 14 August 10.30am: Emergency services say ground teams have again worked through the night to oversee hotspots and damp down, ensure that no further outbreaks take place and consolidate where extinction has been successful. From 112 comes the lovely message that this morning there are no further reactivations and the evolution is favourable. Thank heavens.

Updated 10.30pm: As of 8.30pm the Canarian Government has declared the Artenara fire stabilized. There are no conditions threatening the stability, nor provoking significant further outbreaks. Things seem set fair, therefore, for ground teams now to work towards a full extinction. The Government retains the prohibition, however, on all leisure activities and large group gatherings in the mountains, and asks the public generally just to stay away from the area for the time being. The Government is retaining control of the Level 2 coordination for the moment in line with the Plan Especial de Protección Civil y Atención de Emergencias por Incendios Forestales de Canarias (INFOCA), and all extinction resources will remain fully active until the fire is completely out, with no hotspots or possible reactivations.

Updated 13 August 11.30am: The Artenara fire remains contained this morning despite strong winds overnight. Unfortunately, however, a second fire was started last last evening in the Cazadores area of Telde, in the east of Gran Canaria, and was fanned by the winds into the Valle de Guayadeque, devouring some 125 acres, and forcing yet more evacuations. The second fire has now been contained, but it seems to have been started deliberately and the Gran Canaria Cabildo has asked for anyone who has information to pass it on to the authorities. Today, there’s another hard day in store for firefighters with now two fires to be stabilized and then brought under control. Air resources resumed their work at first light, and thankfully the wind has now died down, and all those evacuated have been able to return home.

Updated 11pm: Air resources have been withdrawn for the night, to return at first light to continue the battle. Overnight, following a coordination committee meeting at 10pm this evening to evaluate the situation, several roads remain closed, and many of those evacuated have another night away from home to endure. The good news, however, is that the fire’s perimeter is now contained, but they will be working through the night to deal with hotspots and ongoing further outbreaks. President Torres told media that a complicating factor is the wind, again forecast to blow throughout the night, but with less inensity tonight than last, and expected to ease around 5am. Let’s hope there is further positive news in the morning. 

Updated 12 August 11.30am: Sadly, the news this morning is that the winds overnight did indeed reactivate the fire as feared, causing many more evacuations including Tenerife’s own Brifor (forestry brigade) who were resting at a refuge centre as part of the fire-fighting detachment, as the forecast winds arrived in some strength. Nearly 4,000 acres are now affected.

A major effort was put into protecting the mountain village of Tejeda, considered one of the prettiest villages in the whole of Spain, but ultimately there were evacuations, and those who weren’t told to leave were living a literal *night*mare, afraid to close their eyes as the flames circled their homes. In all, throughout the areas affected, some 1,000 local residents have been evacuated.

Authorities call for the public to stay away from the wide area that firefighters are operating in even if it’s only to take videos from a distance to upload to social media: fame could come in an unexpected way, emergency services say, with the rapid and ravenous fire able to circle people literally in seconds with fatal results. Many roads, indeed, remain closed to public traffic.

This morning air resources rejoin the battle with ground units who are now in their third day of unceasing firefighting, and meanwhile, Aemet has issued a yellow alert for the winds to keep blowing with intensity throughout today. President Torres said in his latest briefing just before 11am this morning that 13 aircraft are in operation over a 5km stretch at the head of the most active front with ground crews focusing on the areas of Tejeda, La Aldea and Artenara itself, the initial focus point after which the inferno is now named.

Updated 5.30pm: Canarian President Ángel Torres has said that the fire is now contained, though still out of control within its perimeter and so the residents evacuted, in the main from Gáldar, Tejeda and Artenara, will have to remain away from home for the time being while firefighting efforts continue. Some are in refuge centres and others with family. Thankfully there are no injuries to report. President Torres said that temperatures had reduced, which is a help, but that there was considerable concern about high winds forecast tonight, with gusts of up to 90 km/h expected to hamper efforts to get the blaze under control. Firefighters face another very long and difficult night, and barring anything completely unexpected there’ll be another update in the morning.

Original post 11 August, 11.30am: A major fire which broke out yesterday in Gran Canaria is still raging today, with multiple villages evacuated and roads closed, and intervention for fire-fighting at every level from the councils to the island Cabildo, as well as the regional and national Governments, and the Military Emergency Unit. Resources are also there from La Palma and Tenerife.

At one point last evening the fire was almost contained, with 85% of the boundary stable. Sadly, however, the conditions caused by a fire said to be rapid and ravenous worsened very rapidly, with subsidiary fires breaking out, and stablized boundaries flaring up anew.

At present, around 2,500 acres have been affected by the blaze which remains out of control, with nine helicopters and a plane trying to assist the ground crews who must be exhausted after working in shifts through the night. Sadly, weather conditions are not forecast to help, with high winds continuing, and indeed strengthening, as part of the calima which has increased temperatures and reduced humidity – a lethal combination.

Spanish PM Pedro Sánchez has said this morning that he is following the news about the fire. The PM expressed his deep gratitude to the firefighting and emergency teams working tirelessly, and his support for the locals who have had to be evacuated.  

I know this isn’t Tenerife news, but to me, big forest fires affect us all. There for the grace of god, and all that, and at the moment, everyone’s hopes and prayers are with Gran Canaria.

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