Over 1,500 people have been evacuated from their homes as a major forest fire raged in the Castellón province of Valencia over the weekend and further evacuations are still taking place today March 27th.
Spanish officials said the fire had engulfed around 3,000 hectares of land since it broke out on Thursday, forcing residents, from their homes into shelters operated by the Red Cross and municipal authorities.
The unseasonal blaze began near the town of Villanueva de Viver, between the provinces of Castellón and Teruel.
Emergency services in the region said eight towns had been evacuated in the province including Montán, Arañuel, Villanueva de Viver, Fuente la Reina, Montanejos, Puebla de Arenoso.
In neighbouring Teruel, the towns of Olba and San Agustín were also evacuated.
Strong winds have fuelled the flames further with three more towns evacuated today, Monday, March 27.
— Bombers Dipcas (@BombersDipcas) March 23, 2023
The regional premier of Valencia, Ximo Puig, told reporters the fire was ‘very early in the spring, very voracious from the beginning’.
Puig added that the effects of climate change ‘are undeniable, so the perspective of firefighting must be considered on an annual basis’.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez tweeted, ‘My solidarity with the affected residents, especially those who have had to evacuate their homes.’
Some 18 planes and helicopters and more than 600 firefighters and soldiers have been battling the growing fire.
— Ayuntamiento Montanejos (@AMontanejos) March 26, 2023
The state weather agency, AEMET, tweeted that ‘unfavourable weather conditions, especially considering the early date of the year, have favoured the fire’s rapid spread’. Temperatures were above 25 C when the fire broke out, and relative humidity sank below 30% following an unusually dry winter in the area.
In 2022, wildfires burned through 306,555 hectares of land in Spain.
It was also Spain’s hottest year since records began.