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A wildfire raging on the popular UK tourist destination of Tenerife was started on purpose, police have confirmed, with 12,000 people evacuated since the blaze erupted on Tuesday.
Speaking today, Canary Islands regional President Fernando Clavijo announced police have opened three lines of investigation – although he did not say whether there had been any arrests.
Improved weather conditions helped firefighters make advances overnight in their battle to control the fire, which has raged out of control for the past five days and which has been described as the worst on the island for decades.
Tenerife governor Rosa Davila told reporters: “The night was very difficult but thanks to the work of the firefighters, the results have been very positive.”
The Canary Islands have been in midst of drought for most of the last few years, just like most of mainland Spain.
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The islands have recorded below-average rainfall in recent years because of changing weather patterns impacted by climate change.
Although the blaze in the north-east of the island is not close to the main tourist areas in the south-west, the regional government ordered the evacuation of a state-run hotel in the Teide volcano national park, in central Tenerife, 30 miles southwest of the fire zone.
It was not immediately clear how many people were staying at the hotel.
Ms Davila said that more than 12,000 people have been evacuated from their homes since the fire started Tuesday.
The islands’ emergency services said Sunday that 11,600 hectares (29,000 acres) of pine forest and scrubland had been burned.
No injuries have yet been reported and Ms Davila said that thanks to the firefighters, no houses have been destroyed either.
The fire is threatening 11 town areas flanking a steep and craggy mountain area. Access for firefighters is extremely difficult.
The emergency services said air quality in 19 town areas was not good and urged people to stay indoors when possible and wear masks outdoors.
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More than 400 firefighters and soldiers have been deployed, as well as 23 water-carrying helicopters and planes.
Spain’s mainland is bracing for another heat wave starting Sunday that will last until Thursday. Spain’s state weather service said temperatures would gradually rise to hit 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in parts of the mainland Wednesday and Thursday.
On Tenerife, the agency predicted maximum temperatures averaging 30 C (86F) for the coming week.
According to the European Forest Fire Information System, Spain heads the list of EU countries affected by wildfires so far this year, with 75,000 hectares (185,000 acres) burned, ahead of Italy and Greece.
More than 2,000 people were evacuated in a wildfire on the nearby La Palma island last month that affected some 4,500 hectares (11,000 acres).
Spain accounted for almost 40 percent of the nearly 800,00 hectares (two million acres) burned in the European Union in 2022, the EU agency said.
The seven Canary Islands are located off the north-west coast of Africa and southwest of mainland Spain.
At their nearest point, they are 60 miles from Morocco.
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