Gran Canaria residents return to their homes after being hit by an even larger forest fire

A firefighter looks over charred forest to the sea in Gran Canaria.
A firefighter looks over charred forest to the sea in Gran Canaria. / EFE
  • Fears that the sensitve Tamadaba Natural Park would be destroyed receded but important environmental damage has been done

Little by little the flames that have once again swept through the mountains and forests of Gran Canaria since last weekend have been going out. If the forest fire two weeks ago was a shock to island communities, destroying 1,500 hectares, the effect on their lives of this week's blaze, covering around 10,000 hectares (100 square kilometres) was much more devastating.

A true disaster that has affected many homes, although the some 10,000 people evacuated have slowly been returning to their properties as the fire has been brought under control. "We've gone from evacuating people to returning them. When residents go back to their homes, it means we are beating the fire," said regional president of the Canaries, Ángel Victor Torres, on Wednesday.

On Thursday, there were still several roads in the interior of the island closed because of the fire, which started on Saturday 17 August and affected a big part of the northwest of the island, especially the Tejeda, Agaete and Guayedra valleys, near the villages of Tejeda and Valleseco. Various areas of important environmental interest were hit, including the Tamadaba Natural Park, with many delicate native species of flora and fauna. Fortunately only some 2,000 hectares of the park's 7,500 hectares were affected and only superficially.

"We've had three fires in a little more than a week and the Guardia Civil is investigating," explained Torres. The main fire a week earlier had been caused by a man soldering outside his rural home but this latest, much bigger one, is still unexplained.

Sources said that this is one of the worst forest fires to hit Spain in six years, and the acting prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, was due to visit the scene on Thursday.

Very hot weather and strong summer winds have created a dangerous situation for the spread of forest fire throughout the Canary Islands, meteorologists said.