Tenerife Heat Hazard

15.05.2014 – The recent heat wave brought temperatures in the mid 30s to many areas of the archipelago. 

Hot winds swept across the islands, skies were hazy, and the sun beat down on beaches and mountainsides equally.

These conditions are perfect for a long awaited holiday in the sun, but are also the harbinger of the fire season.  Across the Islands the Department of the Environment and the Brifor forest firefighting units are hard at work clearing undergrowth and opening strategic clearings to act as firebreaks.  The mountains are considerably more lush this year and the concern is that, once the warm weather begins in earnest, the dry vegetation will become a serious danger in the event of an outbreak. 

Annually there are many fires around the islands and, on occasion, they rage out of control for several days, such as the horrific scenes of almost simultaneous blazes in Gran Canaria, La Palma and Tenerife in August 2012: thousands were evacuated, swathes of forests were lost, and over two days alone 80 houses burned down in the beautiful Valley Gran Rey in La Gomera.

Unfortunately, a worryingly large percentage of all fires are started on purpose – and not just by troubled teenagers.  In 2012, residents of the town of Mazo, La Palma, were stunned by the arrest of a 31-year-old woman caught red-handed setting the latest in a series of blazes in the Breña Alta area.  Even more shocking, perhaps, the forest warden accused of deliberately starting Gran Canaria’s biggest ever fire has just gone on trial.  Juan Antonio Navarro is accused of causing the blaze, in 2007, which destroyed 20,000 hectares of woodland and affected many thousands of people.  

The majority of us would not choose to deliberately set a fire, but who knows how many have been started through sheer, thoughtless, negligence.

As the heat rises and the land dries, please take extra care, especially when visiting the mountains.  Take all rubbish with you when you leave, never throw cigarette butts out of a car window, and always heed official travel and fire restrictions during high risk periods – it could save lives.