Soldiers were deployed on Sunday in southeastern Spain to join the battle against a major wildfire that was burning for a fourth day, invigorated by stray embers that sparked a new hot spot.
The blaze in Malaga Province had destroyed nearly 7,000 hectares of forest and prompted fresh evacuations, bringing the total number of residents displaced to about 2,500.
Plan Infoca, the Andalusia region’s agency in charge of firefighting efforts, described Sunday as a “key day” for bringing the blaze under control.
Authorities on Sunday removed nearly 1,500 residents from the towns of Jubrique, Genalguacil and four other villages. More than 1,000 other people had been evacuated before the weekend from areas around the resort town of Estepona, which is popular among tourists and expats.
An emergency brigade traveled from the military base of Moron, in southern Spain, to join more than 300 firefighters and 41 aircraft battling the flames.
The reinforcement was welcomed, but firefighter Rafael Fanega, who said the blaze was still “out of control,” called for more boots on the ground to battle the flames.
“I don’t see enough deployed personnel,” Fanega said in Jubrique after it was evacuated. “Some may see it differently, but that’s how I see it.”
Some progress was seen on Saturday, when authorities said better weather conditions had helped firefighters stabilize the perimeter of the blaze, allowing them to focus on four hot spots.
A combination of hot and dry temperatures with strong winds created a perfect storm, turning the blaze that started late on Wednesday last week into a “hungry monster,” Plan Infoca deputy operational chief Alejandro Garcia said last week.
“The potency and strength of this wildfire is unusual for the kind of blazes that we are used to seeing in this country,” Garcia told reporters on Sunday.
The firefighting agency released aerial pictures showing towering plumes of smoke emerging from rugged terrain, which it said made crews’ access on the ground difficult.
A 44-year-old firefighter died on Thursday last week while trying to extinguish the blaze.
Authorities said that they had evidence of arson and were launching an investigation.
Wildfires are common in southern Europe during the hot, dry summer months, but have been particularly numerous around the Mediterranean Sea this year, worsened by intense heat waves.
In Spain, more than 75,000 hectares of forest and bush areas had burned in the first eight months of the year, the Spanish Ministry of Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge said.
Scientists say there is little doubt that climate change from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas is driving more extreme events, such as heat waves, droughts, wildfires, floods and storms.
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