FIREFIGHTING authorities said conditions for battling the wildfire in the Sierra Bermeja above Estepona had improved as strong winds dropped overnight.

The battle to contain the flames continued on Saturday morning with more than 38 firefighting aircraft mobilized as well as 30 fire engines on the ground and more than 550 personnel.

The wildfire which broke out on Wednesday evening has forced the evacuation of more than 1,000 people from their homes.

Authorities also ‘locked down’ two towns in the affected area warning residents in Genalguacil and Jubrique to stay inside because of the dangers from the huge thick cloud of smoke hanging over them.

On Friday afternoon, hours after emergency authorities upgraded the fire danger to Level 2, authorities warned that the blaze had created a “pyrocumulus”.

This is a thick cloud of smoke containing incandescent material which can cause a rain of burning embers.

By late Friday evening the cloud had dispersed and the lockdown lifted.

By Saturday morning the wind dropped with Andalucia’s regional president Juanma Mereno expressing hope that “weather conditions will bring a respite to those battling the fire for the fourth day”.

More than 5,000 hectares of forest area had been scorched with firefighters battling to contain a blaze with a perimeter of 41 km.

A day earlier Mereno vowed to hunt down the arsonists responsible for a blaze which claimed the life of firefighter Carlos Martínez Haro, 44, a father of two from Almeria.

‘If the fire was started deliberately, we will hunt down the killers,’ he said.

On Saturday morning some 41 watercarrying aircraft were being used to douse the flames.

The Olive Press captured the incredible work being done in the Sierra Bermeja in an exclusive video.

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