Wildfire Balloons in Northwest Spain Amid High Winds and Heat

High winds and heat were contributing to the uncontrolled spread of a wildfire in Spain’s northwestern region of Castile and Leon on June 16-17, as encroaching flames prompted the evacuation of eight towns overnight, officials said.

The region’s environmental management agency, Naturaleza Castilla y Leon, said the fire broke out on Wednesday night in the Sierra de la Culebra, a mountain range in the region’s Zamora province, close to the Portuguese border.

On Thursday, the fire burned through 900 hectares (3.5 square miles) of woodland. But by Friday morning, the blaze had ballooned in size, burning up to 9,000 hectares (35 square miles), assisted by easterly winds with gusts of up to 40 km/h (25 mph), low humidity, and temperatures of almost 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), the agency said.

Officials on Friday morning described conditions overnight as difficult and “intense.” Firefighters from Castile and Leon were being assisted by crews from the regions of Galicia and Madrid, along with personnel from Spain’s ecology ministry and its Military Emergency Unit, Naturaleza Castilla y Leon said.

Alfonso Fernandez Manueco, head of the regional government in Castile and Leon, visited the area on Friday afternoon and lauded their collaborative efforts.

Weather conditions remained “unfavorable” on Friday evening, with sustained winds of up to 30 km/h (18.6 mph) and gusts of up to 70 km/h (43.5 mph). Temperatures were around 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit), Naturaleza Castilla y Leon said.

The agency said the potential for dry storms, which produce lightning but no rain, was also a risk factor. Credit: @naturalezacyl via Storyful

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