A WILDFIRE that broke out on Thursday in Castellon province, in the Valencia region, gained new strength on Sunday due to adverse weather conditions. 

Winds of up to 50km/h, low humidity and high temperatures saw the blaze in the Villanueva de Viver municipality reactivate, with emergency teams working hard to stop it from spreading to the nearby populated areas of Montan and Montanejos. 

The fire had already burned nearly 4,000 hectares of land and had a perimeter of 40 kilometres. 

Some 1,500 people were evacuated from their homes on Friday when the blaze took hold. According to regional government officials on Sunday, they were still unable to return to their properties due to the conditions. There were no further evacuations planned on Sunday.

The same authorities called for people to behave responsibly and to avoid ‘fire tourism’ – i.e. approaching the area to get a better look at the inferno. 

Some 500 firefighters and 18 aircraft were on the scene this weekend to battle the blaze, according to news agency Europa Press.

The blaze is the first major wildfire of the year, and has arrived unusually early due to the dry winter. 

Spain’s environment minister, Teresa Ribera, told reporters in Cadiz on Friday that ‘out-of-season fires’ were becoming more and more common in the country. 

‘Summer is getting longer, it is arriving earlier, and the availability of water and humidity in the soil is unfortunately being reduced, making us much more vulnerable,’ she said, in comments reported by Reuters. 

According to the European Commission’s Forest Fire Information System, 493 fires destroyed a record 307,000 hectares of land in Spain last year.

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