Forest fire Tenerife
10 Apr 2018

The wildfire on Tenerife has destroyed 220 hectares of forest and pastures


Photo by 112 Canarias

The forest fire that started Sunday night on Tenerife is still out of control. Strong wind and steep, inhospitable terrain make firefighting efforts difficult. The island council in Tenerife hopes to get two water bomber airplanes from the central government to the island on Tuesday.

The fire is active on two fronts, said the Minister for the Environment at Tenerife, José Antonio Valbuena, at a press conference on Monday night. It was announced by a hiker at 21.50 on Sunday evening.


Wid fire map

Forest fires are raging in the area marked on the map. Ill: Cabildo de Tenerife / Google Maps

Four water bomber helicopters have been in the air on Monday, but the aircraft are difficult to operate at the elevation the fire now has reached.

120 people have been fighting the wildfires during Monday.

Experts from the island council suggest that the fire could have been started intentionally since there have been no natural phenomena that may have started it.

The fire has not hit any residential areas and there is also no immediate danger that it may happen at the current time.

The wild fires are burning in the area of ​​Lunar in Vilaflor and Granadilla de Abona municipality south of Tenerife, between Madre del Agua route and Montaña de la Arena.


Difficult territory to fight forest fires

The Canary Islands was one of the first of the colonies of Spain, and like other colonies in South and North America, was eventually taken violently from the aboriginals.

By the time Christopher Columbus stopped in the capital harbor of Las Palmas to stock up on food and supplies on his way to eventually discover the "New World", the city of Las Palmas was already a 100 years old.

Because of its African location just south-west of the coast of Marocko, the islands are often plagued by severe droughts, especially since ship building during the latter part of the last millennium cleared the south of much if its old growth forests.

Firefighting is difficult due to the mountainous terrain and the curvy, windy roads. Resources are pretty much limited to what is available on the island, which has merely one million permanent inhabitants.

When a forest fire strikes the islands during droughts, putting out the fire by man power alone is often virtually impossible, and fire crews have to resort to evacuating locals and lives stock, and hope for rain to slow down the fire spread.

Large percentages of the islands´ forest can be lost in one single fire during the dry season. On an island with only 200 km circumference, the nightmare scenario would be to have almost all of the island involved in one gigantic forest fire.

Luckily, this has not happened so far, however, on Gran Canaria, in late summer of 2017, many were afraid the unthinkable was about to happen when a storm fueled the crispy dry under brush to spread faster than evacuations were possible to be arranged.

One Swedish woman perished near her home due to smoke inhalation and heat exposure.


Large forest fires in the Canary Islands since 2000:

Gran Canaria (2007): 18,972 hectares
Tenerife (2007): 16,820 hectares
Tenerife (2012): 6512 hectares
La Palma (2016): 4864 hectares
La Palma (2000): 3912 hectares
La Palma (2009): 3464 hectares
Gran Canaria (2017): 2700 hectares
La Gomera (2012): 2676 hectares
La Palma (2012): 2028 hectares
La Palma (2005): 1890 hectares
El Hierro (2006): 1466 hectares

(Source: Istac Statistics Institute )