Major Spain wildfire forces 1,500 people to flee homes

Blazes take hold in north-eastern Spain as rain in France brings fires largely under control

Residents stand near a forest fire in Anon de Moncayo, Spain, on Saturday. AP
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About 1,500 people from eight villages in the Zaragoza province were forced to flee their homes after a large wildfire in north-east Spain grew rapidly overnight and was burning out of control on Sunday, firefighters said.

Javier Lamban, head of the local Aragon government, said on Sunday that the situation was critical in the town of Anon de Moncayo and the priority for the 300 firefighters fighting the blaze was to protect human lives and villages.

The wildfire began on Saturday and quickly developed a 50-kilometre perimeter in less than 24 hours, the local forest chief said.

It is estimated that up to 8,000 hectares has been burnt, state news agency EFE reported.

Those who fled took shelter in three sports centres in nearby towns.

Firefighters said the outlook for controlling the blaze depended on the weather, but gusty winds up to 60kph were predicted.

Drought and extremely high temperatures in Spain are turning 2022 into the worst year of the century for fires.

So far this year, the Spanish Ministry for Ecological Transition has registered 43 large wildfires, which are those that have burnt at least 500ha

That is four times the amount of the previous year and a record for the last decade.

The European Forest Fire Information System says 248,674ha have been burnt in wildfires so far this year in Spain.

That is almost four times the country’s full-year average of 66,965ha since 2006, when records began.

High temperatures and wildfires in Europe - in pictures

Meanwhile, a forest fire that flared up again in southern France sent 1,000 more people fleeing as overnight rain brought blazes elsewhere in the country under control, officials said on Sunday.

France has been hit this summer by a historic drought as well as heatwaves and several forest fires.

A fire that had been raging since Monday in the southern Aveyron region appeared to be under control and dying out on Saturday afternoon, when it suddenly reignited, burning 500 more hectares, the prefecture said.

At least 1,000 people were moved from the village of Mostuejouls near the city of Millau and six nearby hamlets, it said.

About 3,000 people had already been moved to safety because of the fire, but were allowed back when it appeared to be under control.

No casualties have been reported so far from the blaze, which has burnt 1,260ha so far.

Europe's wildfires - in pictures

A local man was under investigation for accidentally starting the fire when a metal part of his trailer touched the road, sending off sparks that ignited the dried vegetation.

To limit such risks in eastern France, police said on Saturday they were banning entry to all but residents in most forests in the Bas-Rhin region near the German border.

Meanwhile in the south-western Gironde region around Bordeaux, a huge fire that flared on Tuesday was under control after rain fell overnight, a senior official said.

"The night was favourable to us, since as you know, we had rain and very little wind," Ronan Leaustic, deputy prefect of Arcachon commune, said on Sunday. "The fire is now contained."

Mr Leaustic said 8,000 residents forced to flee could now return home.

Firefighters in France battle to contain wildfire - video

There was further relief after a fire in the eastern department of Jura that destroyed more than 1,000ha was brought under control.

Arnaud Mendousse, of Gironde fire and rescue, said earlier there had been between 10 and 30 millimetres of rain in the region but on "terrain that is extremely dry".

"We know that this offers a respite but does not signify an end to the fight," Mr Mendousse said. "We know that if it does not rain in the next 48 to 72 hours the risk will increase considerably."

He said the humidity level has gone up and the temperature was relatively low at about 25ºC, but warned: "The fire is not completely out and the soil remains extremely hot."

Meteo France was forecasting lower temperatures, and rain and thunderstorms for most of the country on Sunday.

In the north-west, in the Broceliande forest in region of Brittany where wildfires are normally rare, a fire was contained after rain fell overnight, but remained under watch after devastating 400ha, officials said.

EU members including Germany, Poland, Austria and Romania have sent reinforcement to France to help battle blazes, and several water-bombing planes from the bloc's fleet have joined the fight.

Updated: August 15, 2022, 3:34 AM