Rain has helped to bring under control a major wildfire that ravaged 7,800 hectares of land in southern Spain despite more than five days of intense firefighting work by land and air.
Juan Manuel Moreno, the president of the Andalusia region, said in a tweet that “the rain that has been falling for some hours has been the best ally of the intense and admirable work of the crews”.
But he said the blaze in Sierra Bermeja, a mountain range close to the tourist-favourite Costa del Sol, is not over and that work to completely extinguish the flames is complex.
Authorities said they have reasons to believe arson is behind the fire, which started in various hotspots late on Wednesday in an area that environmentalists say harboured a unique ecosystem.
Spain’s prosecutor’s office has launched an investigation.
The virulence of the fire, fanned by high temperatures and strong winds, surprised authorities, with a veteran forestry technician describing it as a “hungry monster” that reacted despite hundreds of firefighters, soldiers and dozens of air-dropping aircraft deployed to the area.
A 44-year-old firefighter died on Thursday while trying to extinguish the blaze.
Around 2,600 residents have been evacuated, but most of them had returned to their homes by Tuesday morning, said the regional fire service, Plan Infoca.
Experts with the agency have said that the Sierra Bermeja wildfire will set a precedent as the first mega-fire that Spain suffers as a result of a warming planet and the progressive abandonment of rural areas.
Official data shows that wildfires are getting bigger in Spain.
In the first eight months of 2021, they consumed more forest land – 75,000 hectares – than the average during the past decade.