Thousands of evacuees return home as Tenerife wildfire eases

A firefighter plane discharges water over Guimar, as wildfires rage out of control on the island of Tenerife

By Nacho Doce

TENERIFE, Canary Islands, Spain (Reuters) - More than 8,000 evacuees from a wildfire that has devastated forests on the Spanish island of Tenerife for more than a week were able to return home as the blaze has been brought under control, authorities said on Wednesday.

The fire, which started on Aug. 15, has so far ravaged almost 15,000 hectares of woodland within the national park surrounding the Mount Teide volcano, Spain's highest peak.

Around 3,000 residents are still out of their homes.

The fire is largely under control, except in one area in Guimar. However, there are many hot spots which could reactivate during the hottest hours of the day and could once again cross the control line, authorities said.

Twenty aircraft will continue working to control the fire, which has a perimeter of more than 80 km (50 miles).

Firefighters were able to keep the flames from ravaging the Teide Observatory, Rafel Rebolo, head of the Canary Islands Astrophysics Institute, told Reuters.

"For 20 hours they were tirelessly fighting against the fire that had entered the laboratory. Our infrastructure has not suffered significant damage," Rebolo said.

Europe is battling the effects of scorching temperatures. In Greece, Italy and Portugal firefighters were tackling blazes as the region suffered hot, dry and windy conditions that scientists have linked to climate change.

So far this year, wildfires have burnt 65,127 hectares in Spain, in line with the average of the last decade but well below the 228,863 hectares burnt in the same period in 2022, the worst year in a decade, according to official data.

(Writing by Emma Pinedo; editing by Charlie Devereux and Angus MacSwan)