NOTHING encapsulates the British mentality more than the ability to smile in the face of adversity, to be able to show strength and courage through even the toughest of times.
And no better example of this ‘Blitz Spirit’ has been displayed in the Andalucian town of Mollina this past week.
At 4.30pm, a fire broke out to the south of the park, quickly taking hold as the warm afternoon winds carried the flames across the static homes.
“I was watching the F1 on the TV when I noticed flames out of the window” explained Peter Thacker, a retired bus driver from Sheffield.
“A young lad ran past the window with a fire extinguisher trying to put out the fire but it did no good,” he said.
Without warning and with little time to react, residents of the park were forced to flee as flames engulfed the site.
In total, 40 homes were completely destroyed and 70 people were evacuated, leaving just 15 homes still standing.
“We were one of the lucky ones,” explained John Reid, a retired army veteran who had only been on the site for one month.
“We had the flames just on the other side of the path to our home, but thankfully all that was damaged was a plastic sign that hung on the wall of the caravan.”
At the height of the blaze, 30 firefighters were on the scene battling the flames, with air support coming from the Andalucian Forest Fire Service (Infoca).
Their effectiveness was hindered by numerous detrimental factors however, as strong winds lifted the flames so high helicopters struggled to approach the site.
The first team on the scene was also at a huge disadvantage as they were already combating a fire in the neighbouring town of Humilladero.
“By the time they had reached us, they only had half tanks of water.” said Thacker.
“They could only stay for 10 minutes before having to leave for 20 minutes to fill their tanks.”
As the fire began to be brought under control at around 7pm that evening, the town of Mollina was beginning to come together to help the stricken residents of Pueblo Fiesta.
In an immediate show of support and solidarity, the Mollina Town Hall instructed the opening on Sunday evening of municipal facilities such as pharmacies and local stores.
Bars and restaurants throughout Mollina opened their doors offering free food and drinks to the shaken residents.
Official translator and liaison between the ayuntamiento and the British population of Mollina, Miriam Lopez told the Olive Press: “The town hall’s main priority was organising the safety of everyone involved with special attention to the primary needs of the residents: food, medication, temporary shelter.”
Within hours, the mayor of Mollina, Eugenio Sevillano Ordóñez opened up the local ‘Injuve’ Instituto de la Juventud youth hostel to shelter the homeless, which would be their base for 15 days while they organised alternative accommodation.
A gofundme page was also set up by a friend of the village Maria Giles, and to date has already smashed its target with an incredible €5,476 raised.
This proved invaluable as many were left without money, bank cards or passports.
One of the first steps by the ayuntamiento was to contact the British Consulate to arrange any missing paperwork or passports and local banks were brought on board to assist with replacing bank cards or withdrawing money.
The most overwhelming thing that happened in the days after the fire was people’s amazing generosity towards the victims.
Within hours, donations were pouring in of clothes, toiletries and essentials.
John Murray, owner of the Village Store was instrumental in the collection efforts, housing, sorting and displaying hundreds of items of clothing.
“We opened up Sunday evening in case anyone needed anything, people were coming in and buying extra to donate to the victims.” said John.
“People’s generosity has been unbelievable, we have been inundated with donations and offers of help.”
By Monday afternoon, the square inside the Injuve was lined with donations as far as the eye could see.
In the days following the fire, clothing and essentials were priority but as Lisa Walentek, local teacher and fundraising organiser explained exclusively to the Olive Press, the focus of the donations is shifting.
“The first few days were incredible. We had so much stuff that the town hall had to ask people to put a hold on any more donations.”
“What we are seeing now is that people are gradually being rehomed, the emphasis of donations has moved from clothing and toiletries to appliances and homeware, all things people will need to rebuild,” said Lisa.
Walking around the Injuve, the atmosphere is one of sombre resilience.
By Thursday, there were just 23 remaining at the centre, with the rest being rehomed locally.
Nearby campsite, Saydo Park offered free rooms and opened up spare caravans, as did the La Vina site north of the town.
If you would like to make a donation to the residents of the site, please visit the gofundme page here or contact John Murray at the Village Store Mollina +34 634 21 41 62.