Spain/Morocco–– Morocco has sent two water-bombing planes to help Spain battle a 10-day-old wildfire that has burned nearly 10% of the land on the Canary Island of La Gomera.
The wildfires are the latest blazes in a summer forest fire season that has been one of the worst in recent memory for Spain and Portugal.
Drought and high temperatures have made it extremely difficult for authorities to extinguish the fires. But the Canary Island regional government said the extra planes and a drop in temperatures were raising hopes that firefighters might finally control the blazes that have burned 12 square miles in and around the Garajonay National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site.
The planes made the total working at La Gomera up to seven, plus seven water-bombing helicopters.
Hit particularly hard in Spain have been the Canary Islands and forested areas in southern Spain near the Mediterranean. In Portugal, the fires included a raging blaze that burned homes late last month on the edge of the largest city on Madeira Island.
Two firefighters were killed battling blazes over the weekend in Spain’s Alicante region. But the country’s most devastating fire deaths this year happened in late July in the Catalonia region near the border with France. As the fires raged for days, a key cross-border highway was closed because of smoke, forcing French motorists heading home from holidays in Spain to take an alternate route.
A fire caused by a tossed cigarette from the line of slow-moving cars on the smaller road started another blaze – forcing more than 100 people to abandon their vehicles and scramble down steep hills toward the Mediterranean.
A French family of five somehow got separated from the group and found themselves at the edge of a seaside cliff with no choice but to jump or try to climb down. The father and a daughter plunged to their deaths, and the mother was seriously injured.
The fires in Spain have forced thousands of evacuations this summer, most recently on La Gomera, where nearly 1,000 island residents and tourists were taken to safety by ferry. At the worst point of the La Gomera fires, about 5,000 people had been evacuated, a quarter of the island’s population. But many were allowed to return home.