11:36 p.m. this Tuesday will be a moment that the inhabitants of the Tenerife town of Arafo will take a long time to forget. Just then a forest fire began on the outskirts of the municipality that a day later continued to advance and "without control", as the president of the regional government, Fernando Clavijo, has recognized.
The authorities have also regretted that the flames started at the same time in several points in a pine forest area, which could indicate that it was an intentional incident. The Civil Guard and the firefighting services ask for caution. The first thing is to control the flames. Then investigate.
According to the latest update, the fire has burned more than 1,600 hectares. The wind has allied itself with the fire and is the firefighters' worst enemy, since it makes their work difficult and encourages the affected perimeter to become larger each time. The first evacuations of neighbors have already begun.
At the moment, the works are being carried out, in addition to the municipalities of Arafo and Candelaria, in the bordering areas of Santa Úrsula and La Victoria, further south on the island. The force of the flames forced the evacuation of several population centers in these municipalities on the island. According to sources consulted by the Government of the Canary Islands, these are scattered houses and second homes, which is why the evacuees have preferred to return to their points of origin or wait for calm to return to the homes of relatives, without using the two shelters that They have been arranged in Arafo and Candelaria.
A total of 13 aerial means fight against the flames and against the strong gusts of wind that have been unleashed in the area. The ruggedness of the terrain also makes it difficult for the 150 firefighters working on the ground, face to face with the fire. They have been joined by the men and women of the Military Emergency Unit (UME).
His main obsession is that the smoking bubble that this part of the island has become (as it can be seen in the satellite images) does not expand. May the fire continue at the point of origin and not cross the invisible line that separates this area from the south of the island.
These first hours are fundamental, as in all forest fires. And a piece of data already predicts how the following may be: the authorities are considering the possibility of requesting more seaplanes from the central government. Three of these devices could join the fight against the active front shortly.
The Canarian president, Fernando Clavijo, has recognized that it is a fire "with great force", which has also been registered in a place of very abrupt orography. "If you add to all this that everything has started in several places and that the wind has allied with the fire, we have the perfect storm," explained a firefighter.
The mayoress of Candelaria, María Concepción Brito, has described the situation as "very serious and complicated", since the presence of the flames in some areas is of such magnitude that the aerial means can hardly act, "since the water they discharge is evaporates”.
The smoke columns of the fire can be seen from very distant municipalities. And even from high points on other islands, such as Montaña Cabreja, in San Mateo (Gran Canaria). The lack of rain and the heat of these days have turned pine forests and wooded areas into a powder keg. The Cabildo de Tenerife has asked the population not to go to places of risk for a double reason: to avoid putting themselves in danger and to let those who have no choice but to put themselves in danger work. Several roads have already been closed because the changing wind can change the direction of the fire from one moment to the next and the authorities fear that motorists will be isolated and surrounded.
“The landscape of our childhood is changing. Even if the fire were extinguished today (something that unfortunately will not happen), it will take a long time to see what all this was like again ”, lament the neighbors.