The first major forest fire of the year in Spain has already destroyed more than a thousand hectares in the east of the country. In the affected area on the border between the regions of Aragon and Valencia, around 1,500 people were evacuated from their homes between Thursday and Friday, the state television broadcaster RTVE reported, citing the authorities.
More than ten towns in the provinces of Castellón and Teruel were affected by Friday morning. The flames were "very voracious" from the start, explained the head of government of the Valencia region, Ximo Puig, to journalists. The destroyed forest area corresponds to about 1400 football pitches. There were numerous power outages, at least three country roads were closed on Friday.
"We were told to get out as soon as possible. We grabbed pajamas and that was it," a visibly worried elderly woman told RTVE. The mayor of Montanejos, a town of 550 affected by the evacuations, Miguel Sandalinas, admitted: "We are all very concerned."
According to the Aemet weather service, fighting the flames was made more difficult by strong winds, low humidity and relatively high temperatures of more than 20 degrees. According to official information, around 20 helicopters and firefighting aircraft as well as dozens of ground units from the fire brigade, the military emergency aid unit UME, civil defense and the Samu emergency service were in action on Friday.
2022 was the most devastating forest fire year for Spain since the European forest fire information system EFFIS began recording. According to measurements by the European earth observation system Copernicus, an area of a good 306,000 hectares was destroyed in 493 major fires last year. That's over 3000 square kilometers. For comparison: Saarland has an area of almost 2570 square kilometers.
Report RTVE Communications from the emergency service 112 in Valencia Statements by Valencia's Prime Minister Ximo Puig EFFIS figures for Spain