2,000 evacuated in Canary Islands fire

2,000 evacuated in Canary Islands fire

30 July 2007

published by www.kansascity.com

Gran Canaria — A raging forest fire has destroyed thousands of acres of woodland on Spain’s Gran Canaria island and forced the evacuation Monday of more than 2,000 people, authorities said.

A forest ranger was arrested for allegedly starting the fire deliberately, authorities said.

Provincial government spokesman Roberto Moreno described the fire as the island’s “worst-ever ecological disaster.” Temperatures up to 122 degrees and intense winds made conditions “insufferable” for the 200 firefighters battling the blaze, he said.

At least 10 helicopters were also being used in the fight.

About 2,000 residents were evacuated in the southwest Mogan region and the fire damaged 20 homes, Moreno said. Another 50 tourists had to be evacuated from an inland hotel in the southeastern town of San Bartolome de Tirajana after the blaze reached a nearby hill.

The fire, which began Friday in a mountainous area, has charred about 8,645 acres, mostly forested with pine trees. It was thought to be under control late Sunday, but it flared up again overnight.

Police arrested a 37-year-old forest ranger on Saturday, saying he allegedly acknowledged starting the fire because his job contract was about to expire.

Gran Canaria is part of Spain’s Canary Islands, an archipelago located off Africa’s northwest coast.

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