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Jubrique and Genalguacil evacuated as the Sierra Bermeja fire continues to burn out of control

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/ 112 EMERGENCIAS

  • The wildfire has blazed for four days and destroyed more than 6,000 hectares of land

  • The Government has sent in the Emergency Military Unit (UME) to join the firefighting operation at the request of the Junta

This Sunday morning, 12 September, approximately 300 residents of Jubrique village were ordered to leave their homes - as a precautionary measure - by the emergency services as the Sierra Bermeja fire entered its fourth day, still burning out of control.

Shortly after, evacuation began began in Genalguacil another village affected by the blaze.

Also this Sunday morning, the Government has deployed the Military Emergency Unit (UME) to help fight the fire, at the request of the Junta de Andalucía.

In Jubrique early Sunday morning Guardia Civil and National Police officers, were joined by ambulance crews and Civil Protection volunteers from Ronda, Antequera, Teba and other areas to manage the mass evacuation.

The emergency services in Jubrique this Sunday morning (12 September).

The emergency services in Jubrique this Sunday morning (12 September). / SUR in English.

The blaze has already destroyed more than 6,000 hectares of land and extends over a 42-kilometre perimeter. Prior to this morning it had already forced more than a thousand people out of their homes and has claimed the life of Carlos Martínez Haro, a 44-year-old forest firefighter from Almeria.

The decision to evacuate the residents came as shock after some 41 aircraft and 400 firefighters continued to battle the flames on Saturday and the Junta had reported a “cautious and slow improvement” with respect to the fire.

During the afternoon the efforts of the firefighters had been concentrated in the northern sector as the fire moved back towards Jubrique, Genalguacil and the pinsapar (Spanish fir) forests. But, at around 6pm the residents of two villages – Jubrique and Genalguacil – were advised to stay indoors and close doors and windows as thick smoke accumulated in the area. The concern was for respiratory problems among the population. The order was lifted several hours later.

But, in the early hours of Sunday morning, the emergency services decided to evacuate the population of Jubrique, as a precautionary measure, as thick smoke still shrouded the village.

Jubrique and Genalguacil evacuated as the Sierra Bermeja fire continues to burn out of control

/ SUR

Evacuated

Prior to this Sunday morning's evacuation decision in Jubrique, some 1,070 people have already been forced to leave their homes. Since Wednesday, night residents have been evacuated from the Quiñones area (40 people), from the Forest Hill and Abejeras residential developments (750 people), scattered homes around the Peñas Blancas on the MA-8301 road (37), Charca de la Extranjera (12), Huerta Padrón (60), Castor river (5), Charca de las Nutrias (5), and Rio Velerín (65) in Estepona, as well as the Montemayor residential development in Benahavís (80).

Ignition points

The blaze, that started with two ignition points being reported on Wednesday night, has spread rapidly across four municipalities in Malaga province – Jubrique, Genalguacil, Estepona and Benahavís - leaving huge ecological devastation in its tracks, as well as the threat to human life.

At 5pm on Friday afternoon, the huge blaze generated a towering pyrocumulus ash cloud, that threatened to rain down incandescent material on the area, forcing the Infoca wildfire brigade to pull back some 200 of their 500 workers on the ground and order the confinement of the inhabitants of Jubrique and Genalguacil to their homes.

Panic

The news spread panic among the local population and messages began to circulate on WhatsApp and social media networks about the risk of an explosion. The danger was real. In Pedrógão Grande (Portugal) in 2017, some 64 people died in a similar scenario.

At 9pm Infoca announced that the pyrocumulus was beginning to dissipate and the Junta lifted the confinement of two municipalities and the Infoca firefighters returned on Friday night to fight the fire on the front line.

The fire has reached grade E, the maximum contemplated in the Infoca plan, and is - along with the great fire on the Costa del Sol in 2012 - the most serious in the last decade in the province. On Friday morning it passed from Level 1 to 2, which implies the possibility of requesting state support. The Military Emergency Unit (UME) will be activated if necessary - and also further backup from other regions.

'Hungry monster'

The deputy director of the Regional Operational Centre of Infoca described the blaze on Friday in a very graphic way: “It is a hungry monster and what we intend to do is confine it, enclose it within a few lines of control, and then kill it. What we are doing is accompanying it so that it does not enter the areas where we know it would multiply. We call these types of fires hungry because they are extremely voracious.”