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Residents forced from their homes by Estepona fire begin to return

A helicopter douses the flames from above.
A helicopter douses the flames from above. / Charo Márquez
  • Firefighters and rescuers hope to have the wildfire completely under control by the end of Tuesday

  • A man of French origin has been arrested, believed to have started the fire when trying to destroy a beehive

The wildfire which broke out in the Peñas Blancas area of Estepona on Monday morning and forced hundreds of people to evacuate their homes is expected to be declared officially under control by the end of Tuesday.

The main obstacles for the 240 firefighters and the up to 22 helicopters and planes tackling this blaze has been the steep and inaccessible terrain, as well three high-voltage lines that cross the area. Alejandro Garcia, one of those leading this Infoca operation, explained that water couldn't be discharged on them.

However, now that two of three have been switched off (with the third set to follow shortly), and a favourable change in weather conditions, the operation is expected to be brought under control imminently. "There is less wind, milder temperatures and a higher level of humidity," said regional government spokesman, Elías Bendodo.

The fire was visible from a number of nearby homes.

The fire was visible from a number of nearby homes. / EFE

As a result, on Tuesday afternoon, some residents of the lower part of the Forest Hills development were allowed to return to their homes. This came after 146 people from that development, as well as La Alberdina-Las Abejeras, were forced to spend the night in a sports centre.

So far, the returning residents have confirmed that their homes and land have not suffered any damage.

An arrest made

Bendodo also confirmed on Monday that a man had been arrested in connection with starting the fire.

According to initial investigations, the fire was caused by "negligence" when the man, of French origin, tried to destroy a beehive but quickly lost control of the flames.

The man had been renting the land from which the fire originated.

Around 300 hectares razed

The area, made up pricipally of scrub and pine trees, is of immense ecological importance and borders the Sierra Bermeja natural park. So far, the area razed is estimated to be around 300 hectares.

Firefighters have been working around the clock, risking their lives in the face of 12-metre-high flames with strong winds making the path of the fire increasingly unpredictable.