Spain battles wildfires fueled by one of the first heat waves on record | Spain

Flames licked the roads and colored the skies orange as firefighters across northern Spain raced to contain dozens of blazes fueled by one of the first heat waves on record.

In the Sierra de la Culebra mountain range in the northwestern province of Zamora, flames have devoured more than 25,000 hectares, forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents from 18 municipalities.

Emergency service officials said on Sunday that cooling temperatures had allowed them to make progress in stabilizing the blaze, which a fire association had described earlier like a “real monster”.

More than 600 firefighters had battled to temper the blaze, which tore through a mountain range that ranks as one of Spain’s green jewels, a densely forested strip of land whose pines are home to more than 70 species of trees. birds and one of the highest concentrations of Iberians in Europe. wolves.

“It’s really worrying,” said environmentalist Sergi García. “It is a unique area, which is home to one of the richest biodiversity in Europe. And he was hit by a devastating fire of brutal proportions.

The area has become known in recent years for being home to one of the largest wolf populations in Western Europe, with its forested hills playing a key role in helping the Iberian population rebound from a few hundred animals in the 1970s to more of 2,500 across Spain today.

It was still too early to assess how the fire had affected the wolves, but García said the timing of the fire – just about two months after most cubs were born – suggested the consequences could be severe.

“The fire affected an area that serves as a breeding nucleus for this species,” he said. “If it had happened in the summer, maybe the puppies could have run away. But right now they are very young.

Days of scorching heat across Spain have been blamed for fueling dozens of wildfires in eight of the country’s 17 regions. Catalan officials said on Saturday that firefighters were struggling to put out more than 30 fires.

In the Navarre region, authorities evacuated about 15 municipalities as concerns grew that efforts to fight several fires could be foiled by high temperatures and winds. “We have a few very difficult hours ahead of us,” Navarra Interior Ministry director Amparo López Antelo told reporters.

Extreme weather conditions spread to parts of France, which recorded its first heat wave in 75 years. Temperatures in the resort town of Biarritz hit a record high of 42.9 degrees Celsius. Around 2,500 sheep had to be evacuated after a fire caused by an artillery shell fired during military training burned around 200 hectares in southern France.

Fires have also broken out in Germany, where residents of three villages near Berlin have been ordered to leave their homes due to an impending blaze on Sunday. In Italy, a record drought led several towns to announce water rationing and the region of Lombardy was considering whether to declare a state of emergency.

The extreme weather came as Spain’s national meteorological agency said climate change was leading to earlier summers and more frequent heat waves.

“In the middle of the 21st century, which is not too far away, a normal summer could be as hot as the hottest summer we have experienced so far, or even hotter,” Aemet spokesman Rubén said recently. del Campo. “So what’s extraordinary now will eventually become normal.”

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