MADRID/SAN FRANCISCO - Firefighters and water-dumping planes on Tuesday battled a large wildfire in northwestern Spain that drove local residents from their homes, officials said.
The blaze, one of hundreds to ravage Spain’s parched land over the summer, broke out late Monday near Oia, a village on the Atlantic coast near the border with Portugal.
Firefighters backed by aeroplanes and helicopters were battling to curb the flames which ravaged 1,000 hectares (2,470 acres) as they spread, the regional government said in a statement.
An alert was declared after the fire came close to some houses and residents were evacuated, an official in the Galicia region rural affairs ministry told AFP, but no one was reported hurt.
“The situation has improved since last night,” the official said. “We are not aware of the fire reaching any houses, although there were some evacuations.”
The official could not say how many people were evacuated but Spanish newspapers said the figure was at least 176. The ministry said firefighters had controlled four other fires in the region in recent days, which burned thousands of hectares between them.
The central government said it had sent firefighting planes and personnel to the Oia fire and two others, in the Asturias region and the Tarragona area west of Barcelona.
Spain and Portugal are prone to forest fires in summer because of soaring temperatures, strong winds and dry vegetation.
Last year wildfires destroyed more than 150,000 hectares of land in Spain from January to July, after one of the driest winters on record. This year the winter was wetter and there have been fewer summer fires so far.
One fire on the holiday island of Majorca this month burned 480 hectares and another there last month burned 2,335 hectares, much of it in the Sierra de Tramuntana, a UNESCO-listed mountainous region. Meanwhile, firefighters dwarfed by towering flames that lit up the night sky in California reported progress as they battled a wildfire near Yosemite National Park for a 10th day Tuesday.
Although ash from the fire reached the reservoir that supplies San Francisco’s drinking water, crews said they were confident the reservoir’s infrastructure could be protected, local news reports said.
The so-called Rim Fire, the 13th largest in state history that closed the road into one of the country’s top tourist destinations, is now 20 percent contained, the Los Angeles Times reported, quoting Yosemite Fire Chief Kelly Martin. That was up from 7 percent on Sunday.
The blaze has charred nearly 161,000 acres - including about 21,000 acres inside the park and destroyed at least 23 structures, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said. Crews dropped flame retardants on vulnerable areas. The fire is also threatening two groves of giant sequoias and historical structures in the park. The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, the main source of fresh water for 2.6 million people living in the San Francisco Bay Area, is some 200 miles (320 kilometers) to the west.
The fire is being tackled by nearly 3,700 firefighters. Schools in several nearby areas remained closed Monday.
Meanwhile, the park said in an update on its website, “most of Yosemite National Park is not affected by the fire and is relatively smoke-free. The northern part of the park... has some smoke. Conditions may change if winds shift.”
Highway 120, one of the main routes into Yosemite from the west, remained closed due to the fire. Governor Jerry Brown has declared a state of emergency for San Francisco due to the threat to its water and electricity.
The state’s firefighting efforts got a boost when California received federal assistance over the weekend to help mobilize the necessary resources.
President Barack Obama spoke to California’s governor on Sunday and “expressed his gratitude for the brave men and women working tirelessly to combat this devastating fire,” the White House said.
“The President reiterated his commitment to providing needed federal resources to support the ongoing state and local response,” it added in a read-out of the call.