Canarian Government ends forest fire alert

Updated 30 August: Although restrictions remain as always during the summer, and despite extreme caution still being needed in forested areas due to the tinder dry flora and pinocha, the DGSE has ended the forest fire alert that was put in place for the recent heatwave. Temperatures are right down, the alisios have returned, and moist cool air is with us for the immediate future. Whether we’ll now head towards autumn or face another hot spell is another matter!

Updated 28 August: After a few days in which at least one record was broken – apparently the highest minimum temperature recorded since records began was registered in the middle of the night in TFN airport – 29.5º – I am very happy to post that the Canarian Government’s Emergencies Board has said that its maximum temperatures alert is lifted from 8am tomorrow morning. The DGSE says that the alert is finalized from then for the whole of the Canaries. The fire risk alert remains in place for Tenerife as well as El Hierro, La Palma, La Gomera, and Gran Canaria.

Updated 9pm, 25/8: And as hoped, the La Palma fire is declared under control this evening. The Canarian Government has also announced that anyone who was evacuated may now return to their home, and that from now the fire is declared a Level 1 which restores control of the remaining efforts to extinguish it to the La Palma Cabildo. Tenerife President Pedro Martín, meanwhile, has called on the public to act with extreme caution at present. He reminded that any activity in forest areas is prohibited right now, and stressed that one simple mistake could convert itself into a tragedy.

Updated 25 August: The situation is looking good for the Garafía fire with emergency services saying that air resources have been back in action since first light and that they hope to be able not only to declare the fire under control by the end of the day, but very soon to be able to say it’s been extinguished. Ground crews have again worked through the night cooling hot spots, creating firebreaks, and controlling the stabilized perimeter.

It will be just in time, indeed, because the forecasts for the next two days are for extreme temperatures, and Aemet has issued a rare red alert for heat in south Gran Canaria and the whole of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, with temperatures of well over 40º forecast.

Updated 10pm, 24/8: Things have gone well today in La Palma, thankfully, and firefighters from other islands and the army’s emergencies unit have all returned to their respective bases. The fire is still not yet under control, however, so its status remains at Level 2 and firefighting efforts, which continue again overnight tonight, remain under the control of the Canarian Government.

Updated 11am, 24/8: Aemet has said that the peak of the second spike of this heatwave will be between tomorrow, Tuesday, and Thursday. The Met Office says that the mass of hot air is being brought by an easterly wind and will affect all parts of Tenerife over 200m … which is perhaps why I’ve not felt it as badly as usual at 1km altitude! Temperatures of around 40º are expected to be widespread, even higher in parts. Do take care, and please see HERE for official advice on staying safe in extreme temperatures and, particularly, on measures for those with health problems, especially respiratory conditions. Temperatures will start to reduce in a noticeable way on Friday 28.

Updated 24 August: After what’s been called a tranquil night, at least in firefighting terms, the Garafía fire’s boundary remains stable this morning and crews are now damping down and cooling hot points within it. Very few new flare-ups had to be dealt with overnight and they hope to get the whole fire under control before today is out. Let’s hope!

Updated 9pm, 23/8: The Garafía fire is stabilized, La Palma president Mariano Hernández has confirmed this evening. Conditions have improved sufficiently today that work can now turn to getting it under control, hopefully before conditions worsen again on Tuesday. Meanwhile several properties have been burnt but mercifully physical damage has been the worst of it.

Updated 23 August: Overnight in La Palma, the wind went from bad to worse, and things are not looking any better this morning, sadly. Air resources are back in action since first light but the ground crews have a grim time of it. This video gives an idea of the scale of what they were dealing with last night, and sadly this morning the blaze’s border still isn’t yet stabilized, and the weather is likely to improve tomorrow but only for a day until another hot spell and more wind arrives.

In this morning’s press conference, Canarian President Ángel Torres has said that after a very hard night, things are at least looking a bit more hopeful than yesterday, and that after several moments of horror last night they can see their way to consolidating the fire’s perimeter this morning. Meanwhile people are asked to stay put and several roads (five major roads) are closed while intensive work continues throughout today.

Thankfully it’s a different story in Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera, where Consorcio Bomberos from San Sebastián and the Volunteer Brigade from Valle Gran Rey worked through the night in difficult conditions and extremely inaccessible terrain. Elderly residents or those with mobility problems were evacuated from Las Hayas as a preventative measure but conditions were less extreme than in La Palma, and the fire was declared stabilized around 8am this morning. Work continues today to bring it under control and all hiking paths are closed: the insular tourism authorities have been asked to ensure that any tourists on the island are told to stay away from affected areas, and that their routes will be closed. 

Updated 11pm, 22/8: It’s not looking better for La Palma tonight, as fire crews face another long hard slog in unfavourable conditions. And sadly within the last hour a fire has broken out in Valle Gran Rey in La Gomera. Firefighters are heading for it right now and hopefully it won’t be long before there’s some good news. Meanwhile these are some conditions from earlier on a particularly active front … the speed with which it spreads is quite horrifying, as is its proximity to people’s homes!

Updated 3pm, 22/8: The Canarian Astrophysics Institute observatory at Roque de los Muchachos has been evacuated. The observatory is right on the edge of La Caldera National Park. A small detachment of IAC personnel have remained behind to assist firefighting efforts. The fire has meanwhile entered Punta Gorda and its residents along with those of Tijarafe have been warned to prepare for a possible evacuation soon: these were two areas mentioned by President Torres earlier as zones of particular concern.

Updated 2pm, 22/8: Canarian President Ángel Torres has given a press conference this afternoon with other officials including La Palma President Mariano Hernández and technicians battling the La Palma fire. This is the most difficult time, they say, because the topography complicates firefighting efforts and, worst of all, the three 30s are in place: they have temperatures of near 40º, humidity of around 20%, and winds of around 60km/h. They’re fighting two fronts, both in the north west of the island, and still battling to fix the fire’s boundary, let alone getting it contained. Current efforts are focused on preventing the fire, which has a perimeter of some 16km and a surface area of 3,000 acres, from getting over the LP1 and reaching the La Caldera National Park. The following graphic from the 112 Control Room shows the current area of the fire.

Updated 22 August: The major fire which has been fought through the night in La Palma is sadly still blazing this morning. Several more roads have now been closed and a range of evacuations has been undertaken of several hundred residents from around a dozen villages as a precautionary measure. Air crews have resumed their work from first light to drop water on what are now several fronts and flanks of a very active fire originating in two focal points, while ground crews are occupied in creating firebreaks to try to start to contain it. Resources from Tenerife and Gran Canaria are involved in the effort now, with harbours in Tenerife and Gran Canaria last night looking like a scene from a war film as army lorries lined up to board ferries – and Fred Olsen ferries has put the company’s new high-speed trimaran, Bajamar Express, at their disposal to get them to La Palma as quickly as possible. The fire has now passed to Level 2 which means firefighting efforts have passed beyond the island Cabildo to the regional Government. The following video from the forestry brigades association gives an idea of what they were dealing with last night, but this morning things do look a little more hopeful. Perhaps before tonight falls we can expect better news but here in Tenerife the Cabildo has pleaded with the public to stay away from the mountains entirely this weekend.

Updated 21 August: A hard night is in store for firefighters dealing with a blaze in the Garafía area of La Palma. Residents of Catela and El Colmenero have been evacuated, and some roads closed, with ground crew and a range of air resources in action while daylight lasted. Now it’s over to the ground crew to continue through the night, and they are hoping that the situation, which they describe as “difficult”, can be contained to avoid the fire reaching a nearby barranco which is very steep and deepMore firefighters are on their way tonight, including the army’s Emergencies Unit, and the La Palma Cabildo has said that some roads are now closed and the public should not try to go to see the fire because it will interfere with the work of professionals trying to fight it.   

Updated 5pm, 20/8: The Canarian Government’s Security and Emregencies Board (DGSE) has declared a maximum forest fire risk alert in Tenerife, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and Gran Canaria. The DGSE has called on the public to take the utmost precautions for their own safety and for that of the islands themselves. For official advice on staying safe and preventing forest fires, please see HERE.

Updated 20 August: The Canarian Government has issued a health safety alert throughout the Canaries. The alert is for temperatures approaching 38º especially at medianías (600-1,500m altitude), and up to 42º in Gran Canaria. The alert comes into force at midnight tonight and is presently  until further notice, and is in addition to a Met Office yellow alert for south, west and east Tenerife and south Gran Canaria for high temperatures. The Government urges the public to take utmost precutions and comply with official advice on staying safe in very high temperatures … please see HERE. The Tenerife Cabildo, meanwhile, has reminded the public that all activities in forested areas are banned while the alert is in place, and BBQ areas and camping zones are of course closed.

Original post 19 August: It’s about to get very warm again, meteorologists say, with a new hot spell approaching over coming days and the weekend. Temperatures could rise to the mid-30ºs, especially in the medianías, though the north will not be so badly affected as the rest of Tenerife. In typical form for this summer, however, it isn’t likely to be either a prolonged heatwave or an extreme one, but although it’s likely to start to cool from Monday, it’s set to be followed within days by a second hot front, and one that might last more than just a few days. This very warm weather could last throughout the rest of the month, and so please see HERE for official health advice on staying safe in very high temperatures here.

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