Firefighters fight wildfires as Europe hits heatwave

Firefighters in Spain and Germany struggled to control wildfires on Sunday amid an unusual summer in Western Europe for this time of year.

The worst damage in Spain has been in the north-west province of Zamora, where more than 25,000 hectares (61,000 acres) have been consumed, regional officials said, while German officials said residents of three villages near Berlin were forced to leave their homes. Was ordered to leave the house because of the approaching wildfire on Sunday.

Spanish officials said after three days of high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity, there was some respite on Sunday morning, with temperatures dropping.

This allowed about 650 firefighters supported by water-dumping aircraft to establish a perimeter around the fire that started in Zamora’s Sierra de la Culebra.

close

Smoke rises from the hills in Uzuay, northern Spain (AP Photo/Miguel Oases)

Officials warned that there was still a danger that an unfavorable change in weather could revive the fire that led to the evacuation of 18 villages.

Spain has been on alert for an outbreak of severe wildfires as the country under record temperatures at several points for June engulfed the country. Experts link the unusually warm period for Europe to climate change.

Thermometers have soared above 40C in several Spanish cities throughout the week – the temperature typically expected in August.

The lack of rain coupled with strong winds this year has created a fire situation.

Strong winds of 43 mph coupled with temperatures near 40C changed course the wrong way, making it much harder for the crew, officials said.

close

A firefighter works in front of flames during a forest fire in the Sierra de la Culebra in Zamora province (Emilio Fraile/Europa Press via AP)

“The fire was able to cross a reservoir 500 meters wide and reach the other side, giving you an idea of ​​the difficulties we were facing,” Juan Suárez-Quínón, an official in the Castilla y León region, told Spanish state television TVE.

Officials said the fire in Zamora was started by a lightning storm on Wednesday. High-speed train service from Madrid to the north-west of Spain was cut on Saturday due to the spreading fire.

It was reinstalled on Sunday morning.

Military fire fighting units have been deployed in Jamora, Navara and Leleida.

No casualties were reported, but the flames reached the outskirts of some villages in Jamora and Navarra.

close

A neighbor helps firefighters in San Martín de Anques in northern Spain (AP Photo/Miguel Oases)

Videos shot by passengers in cars show flames on the roadside. In other villages, residents watched in despair as black feathers grew from nearby hills.

In northern Navarra, officials have evacuated some 15 small villages as a precaution, as the high temperatures are not expected to drop in the region until Wednesday.

He also asked the farmers to stop using heavy machinery which may inadvertently catch fire.

“The situation remains critical. We have various active fires due to extremely high temperatures and strong winds,” Navarra regional vice president Javier Ramirez told TVE.

Mr Remirez said some villages have seen some buildings on its outskirts damaged.

Officials said some wild animals were pulled from an animal park in Navarra and taken to a bull ring for safekeeping.

close

A police water cannon in action at a forest fire in Trauenbrietzen, Germany (Thomas Schulz/DPA via AP)

Wildfires were also active in three parts of north-eastern Catalonia: in Lleida, in Tarragona and in a nature park in Garf, south of Barcelona.

Firefighters said 2,700 hectares (6,600 acres) in Lalida were charred. He said he has responded to more than 200 different wildfires in Catalonia in the past week alone.

Germany has seen several wildfires in recent days after extreme heat and little rain. The country’s national weather agency said the mercury reached 39.2C in the eastern cities of Dresden and Cottbus on Sunday.

Strong winds are blowing near the city of Trauenbrietzen, about 31 miles southwest of Berlin, forcing authorities to order the evacuation of three villages on Sunday.

About 600 people in Fransdorf, Tiefenbrunn and Clausdorf were immediately asked to take refuge in a community centre.
“This is not an exercise,” tweeted city officials.

More than 1,400 firefighters, soldiers and civil defense specialists were deployed to deal with the fire, which also affected a former military training area known to be contaminated with ammunition.

Officials expressed hope late Sunday that a thunderstorm coming from the west would help douse the fire.