Fire scorches Huelva Fire was contained before just before reaching Doñana National Park
By Dave Jamieson A MAJOR fire which broke out in Huelva countryside on Saturday night forced thousands of people to be evacuated and threatened Doñana National Park, burning an area of over 8,000 hectares, according to initial estimates.
There was only one known fatality: one of 14 Iberian lynx moved from a conservation centre died from stress during the operation.
When the fire was first reported in a park area known as Las Peñuelas at 21.30 on Saturday, a Level 1 emergency was declared and ground crews were quickly tackling the “very complicated” incident.
The Mazagón Parador was one of two hotels evacuated overnight as a precaution along with two campsites and a number of private homes as winds of more than 90 kph fanned the flames.
By Sunday morning, the blaze had reached the edge of the Doñana National Park, forcing 2,000 people to be moved to safety and cutting off the beach resort of Matalascañas, south east of the city of Huelva, for several hours. An estimated 50,000 visitors, including many weekenders from Sevilla, remained trapped after both main roads out of the town were closed.
On Sunday evening, one car- riageway of the A-483 was reopened allowing them to escape, with all vehicles being escorted north towards El Rocío by Guardia Civil patrols.
The only other main road out of Matalascañas, the A-494, remained closed at two points.
By Sunday night, the fire was advancing in three directions and roads which normally act as firebreaks were not fulfilling this role. Firefighters said the strong winds had whipped up the flames to the point that they were simply jumping across these barriers.
During Monday, firefighters gradually stabilised the fire and by Tuesday morning the immediate emergency was over with people allowed to return to their homes.
Aerial reconnaissance confirmed that a large area within the perimeter of the blaze remained unaffected while another had suffered minimal damage.
Investigations underway into the cause of the fire are suggesting that it did not start naturally, with regional environment councillor José Fiscal noting there had been no thunderstorms reported but adding it remained to be seen if negligence was to blame.
The President of Andalucía, Susana Díaz, who visited the area, said “the human factor” had not been ruled out.
The fire scorched an area of over 8,000 hectometres, according to initial estimates