5th September 2016
One of the worst
blazes in living memory has burned many acres and resulted in the
evacuation of more than a thousand residents and holidaymakers from the
urbanisations in the hills to the south of the municipality. There are unconfirmed
reports that 20 houses have been destroyed and the regional government say
that they believe that the fire was started deliberately but there will be no
confirmation until the inferno has been extinguished
and the investigators can do their work. At the time of
writing, fire-fighting assets were still fighting to bring the inferno under
control, almost two years to the day after a huge fire consumed much of La
originated on the western slopes of the Puig Llorença below the Cumbre del Sol
urbanisation at about 3.30pm, close to the viewpoint that overlooks the village
of Benitatxell and the valley of Montgó. Temperatures had nudged 40°c on one of
the hottest days of the year and a strong wind made the fire-fighting efforts
difficult but, it seemed, not impossible. Investigators from the Guardia Civil’s
SEPRONA unit had already declared that there were reports of three vehicles
parked at the viewpoint just prior to the first reports of the fire and they did
not rule out the possibility that someone who was leaning on the railings of
the viewpoint threw a cigarette butt into the scrubland below. By late afternoon it was reported to be
extinguished and air assets were stood down. However, the nightmare was just
As the sun
dipped in the sky, flames were spotted close to the same area and thick smoke
began to fill the sky to the south. There were reports of more fires breaking
out between the original site and the urbanisations bordering Camí Cansalades
and fire-fighting assets were deployed from across the region to support those
of the Protección Civil, Bomberos de Balcón al Mar and the Parque Comarcal,
controlled from a command centre set up in the car-park of the Salones
As night fell,
the hills were silhouetted in an eerie orange glow. Occasionally huge flames
burst upwards towards the sky. The float parade in the port seemed muted as
people stared open-mouthed southwards towards the extended line of orange
stretching from the Arenal area to Cumbre del Sol. With safety units otherwise
engaged, the Correfocs parade scheduled for midnight was cancelled and the
members of the Fiesta Commission concentrated their efforts on putting together
emergency food parcels for those who were being evacuated. (They would
eventually suspend the fiesta programme for Monday.) The town rallied, offering
beds in their houses and putting together food parcels for those displaced from
advanced at a brutal rate through Adsubia, Pinosol and to the upper parts of
Tossalet whilst a separate inferno broke out on the Saladar area close to the
Arenal beach along Calle Atenas. The latter was brought under control by 11pm
but as the main inferno continued to rage and more fires broke out, the UME –
the Military Emergencies Unit responsible for providing disaster relief – was deployed
in support with 43 personnel and 22 vehicles. Another 40 personnel would join
them from their base in Torrejón.
It was reported
that more than a thousand residents and holiday-makers were evacuated from
houses within a wide area, initially from Tossalet, Cansalades, Pinosol and
Villes del Vent. Later residents in Costa Nova were told to leave their houses
and then, in the early hours, police ordered the evacuation of the Camping
Naranjal site after the fire crossed the Camí Cabanes. By the early morning,
residents of many of the urbanisations in the area had been told to leave their
homes as a precaution.
The fire raged
all night as fire-fighters battled against the flames; air assets were unable
to support them until dawn. The flames devoured much of the protected mountain
area of La Granadella, one of the most precious natural treasures of the Marina
Alta region, before moving into the urbanisations. The command post reported
that the efforts to fight the blaze were proving difficult because there was no
defined front to the fire.
the round on social networks talked of the arrest of a possible arsonist or a
group of arsonists. Although there was no official confirmation for some time, by
dawn investigators began to acknowledge that there was a suspicion that the
inferno had been caused by an arsonist.
List of evacuated urbanisations released - Villes al Vent, Cansalades Park,
Valle de Sol, Valsol, Pinomar, Pinosol, Tossalet, Toscal, Entrepinos, Cap
Martí, Costa Nova, La Guardia, Adsubia-Toscamar, La Colina, La Fina and Altos
de Cabanes. In addition, Camping Naranjal.
Some 40 UME personnel deployed from their base in Torrejón to assist with the
fire-fighting effort. Five brigades from Divalterra also deploying.
258 people evacuated from the area are located at IES Antonio Llidó and 72 more
than Colegio Sta María Magdalena.
Air assets deployed. Fiesta Commission announced that all events planned for
today have been cancelled.
511 residents evacuated from the area are being hosted at IES Antonio Llidó
(279), in private houses (122) and at the shelter in Benitatxell (110). The
Cruz Roja has mobilised assets from Dénia, Benidorm and Alicante to assist.
There have been many donations of food and water and, for the moment, breakfast
UPDATE 09:05: 10
air assets have been deployed from the Generalitat with another five expected
from the Ministry. Police officials confirm that Camí Cabanes will be closed
until further notice and the general public are requested stay away from the area
to allow fire-fighting assets to continue their work without hindrance.
Residents will be informed when it is safe to return to their homes. At 09:30
there will be an inspection flight over the area to assess the current
situation and an update will follow.
Reports from the Generalitat Valenciana confirm that the inferno was started
According to the Ayuntamiento de Xàbia, parts of Urbanisation La Granadella
have been evacuated.
11:00: The Guardia Civil reports that residents
of Los Calistros in Benitatxell have been allowed to
return to their homes. Reports suggest that the worst
of the blaze is now affecting Granadella.
11:50: There will be a press conference at 13:00
at the Salones Carrasco with GV President Ximo Puig
and mayor José Chulvi.
11:55: 370 ground troops and 20 air assets are fighting
the blaze with efforts concentrating on the Granadella
12:00: An estimated 319 hectares of urban and forest
zone have been affected.
12:25: It has been confirmed that the 'bous a la
mar' which was suspended this morning has now been cancelled
for this year. The priority, the organisers have said,
is fighting the fire and all means should be concentrating
their efforts on that.
12:35: The Cruz Roja has deployed its ERIE Psychosocial
Assistance group from Benidorm to assist with those
who have been affected by this disaster.
12:50: With regards to the utilities, Iberdrola does not yet know when it will able to restore power to the affected areas after cutting supply at the request of the fire-fighting units. Movistar are yet to provide a full report but it is expected that it will begin to restore phone lines in several streets of Tossalet at 2.00pm. AMJASA have reported that there have been numerous leaks inside affected houses and their engineers have closed valves on the water meters to minimize loss of water. A label has been placed on those houses affected by this action.
The Ayuntamiento de Xàbia has said that anyone who has been evacuated should report to IES Antonio Llidó, the high school in the old town above the main market square.
13:35: The Protección Civil de Xàbia
has requested that boats stay clear of the bay of Xàbia
and Benitatxell for as long as the fire-fighting effort
continues so as to avoid hindering the work of the air
14:30: Precautionary evacuations in the zone of
Cumbre del Sol are being carried out by officers
from the Guardia Civil and Policía Local.
14:45: Air assets are working furiously to combat
the flames and are releasing sea water over the affected
area at a rate of one every four minutes. There
are going to be more evacuations in the Benitatxell
area, mostly as a precaution, and it has been felt that
it is better to organise them now rather than during
the hours of darkness. Mayor José Chulvi has
called the inferno a "disaster" and extends
his gratitude for all the help in Xàbia and across
the Marina Alta as well as the administrations. Generalitat
President Ximo Puig added that this was not the time
for facts and figures and the important thing is the
14:55: Generalitat Valenciana President Ximo Puig
says: "We will take all necessary measures to stop
the fire and help the people who have been evacuated."
15:10: Generalitat Valenciana President Ximo Puig
says: "This environmental terrorism puts the natural
heritage of the Comunidad Valenciana at risk and acts
16:15: The Fiestas Commission Mare de Déu
de Loreto has called on all residents and groups who
want to collaborate with them to provide fillings to
make bocadillos for the people evacuated from the area
as well as those volunteers and members of the fire-fighting
assets working hard to extinguish the flames. Items
such as bread, eggs, pork loin, potatoes, onions, ham,
etc. can be brought to the headquarters of the Commission
in Calle Severo Ochoa.
16:30: The police in Xàbia have kindly requested
that the bay be left clear of vessels during the
fire-fighting effort in order not to obstruct the work
of the air assets taking on water to dump on the blaze.
To regulate this, there is a police boat stationed in
the Canal de la Fontana and two more stationed along
the coast, including one from Dénia.
17:30: Another fire has broken in the Saladar zone
close to the Consum roundabout. Both ground and air
assets are in attendance.
18:10: Fire reported next to Carretera Jesús
Poble close to Restaurante Montgó. Ground and
fire assets deployed.
19:40: The latest briefing confirms that the fire
affected the Granadella area during the morning which
forced the evacuation of the zones of Granadella and
Pic Tort. Later in the day, as the fire consumed the
forestry park of Granadella, the flames threatened the
urbanisation of Cumbres del Sol and forced more evacuations.
In total some 1,400 people have been evacuated today.
Provisional estimates suggest that some 349 hectares
has been affected. 28 air assets were deployed during
the day, which is half the Ministry's total fleet as
well as 222 military personnel from UME and more units
from the Generalitat. Evacuation efforts have been complicated
with many people not wanting to leave their homes; there
are two cases that particularly stand out; officers
from the Guardia Civil were attacked by one home-owner
whilst the second case saw an older couple with five
children unable to leave since they had no transport.
The fire-fighting effort has been complicated in an
area of high occupancy and with four fires to contend
with. This evening there was another fire on the Saladar
and a smaller one in Les Valls. The Guardia Civl and
SEPRONA have begun their investigations and everything
indicates that they are dealing with arson. The units
are talking to witnesses and collating all the clues
and information of which there is a lot. The investigation
is being conducted in secrecy at the moment. Anyone
who has any information is asked to contact the Guardia
Civil. The shelter in Xàbia is well stocked and
people have been making donations and offering help.
20:20: Thanks to a huge response to the call for
food and drink, the Fiesta Commission now have more
than enough to deal with the current situation and are
now looking for clothing. The response has been truly
amazing and the commission and their volunteers have
been working flat out to produce food parcels and snacks
not only for the evacuated but also for the fire-fighting
units battling the blaze.
20:20: The latest briefing shows that the area of
the fire burning on La Granadella covers from 812 hectares
encompassing the entire Parque Forestal de la Granadella.
22:34: Fire-fighting units working overnight will
include 5 units from the Bomberos Forestals GV plus
4 more from the provincial department, 4 brigades from
Divalterra and two sections of UME, the military disaster
response unit as well 3 local brigades and 6 allocations
23:30: The Cruz Roja Española reports that
under the direction of the Command Centre (PMA), those
evacuees in the temporary shelters could return to their
home but that two such centres will remain open for
those who cannot access them.
MIRROR reported that a 93-year-old British resident
lashed out at Guardia Civil officers trying to facilitate
his evacuation from his home after suffering a panic
attack. A spokesman said: "The clearance started with acoustic and light warnings using vehicle loudspeakers but the seriousness of the fire forced officers to go door-to-door getting residents out of their homes.
The atmosphere was unbearable. The heat of the flames and the smoke left officers having to wear masks and dehydration was another of their worries.
Moreover in many houses people had to be convinced of the danger they were in. Many could not believe what was happening and resisted leaving all their belongings behind.
The Civil Guards went from house to house convincing them as if they were psychologists and trying to persuade them that it was best to lose belongings rather than their lives.
Some of these conversations took place with the flames right behind them.
So great was some peoples’ desperation that one of them, a 93-year-old English man, went into shock.
The anxiety the situation left him in made him become violent and he began to attack everyone around him.
Officers, who understood perfectly the state of nervousness he was in, managed to calm him down, although only after receiving more blows, and finally managed to get him away from the house he was in and help him reach safety."
01:00: The Ayuntamiento de Xàbia confirmed
that the fire was been extinguished but there is still
a risk that it might flare up again. Therefore residents
will still be unable to return to their homes. Security
forces and extinguishing teams will remain in the area
during the night. The Ayuntamiento wants to thank all
the people who have been fighting the fire and for the
many volunteers that offered assistance in helping the
evacuated people and preparing food, etc. Many residents
offered their services as well as the commission of
the Port Fiesta and many local companies that provided
catering for the residents in the temporary shelter.
08:00: The first plane has been deployed to continue
09:05: Camí Cabanes has been re-opened and
residents are able to return to their homes.
09:30: The Policía Local confirms that people
evacuated from their homes can now return. In the case
of major damage to homes, owners can request the attendance
of a police officer to assess the situation and possible
risks. More updates will be given throughout the morning
as well as a detailed summary of what has happened and
what has been done in the past few hours.
11:10: The Cruz Roja de Xàbia reports that
evacuated residents are starting to return to their
homes but they are maintaining a staff of 14 at
the shelter at IES Antonio Llidó.
12:25: GVA 112CV reports that the situation is looking
favourable with 100 fire-fighting assets on the ground
continuing the extinguishing work whilst a helicopter
is on standby to react to possible outbreaks.
14:15: King Felipe VI has called President of the
Generalitat Valenciana Ximo Puig to learn more abou
the current situation with the fires at Xàbia
and at Bolulla as well as express his solidarity with
the Valencian people and especially with the residents
direct affected by the flames. Puig explained that the
Xàbia fire was in principle "controlled"
and that residents have been asked to cooperate with
any investigation to help identify those who are responsible
for this disaster. The president also reiterated his
gratitude to residents in the Marina Alta and especially
in Xàbia for their solidarity in supporting and
helping those affected, many of them foreigners and
older people. He said that "it has been demonstrated
that feelings of solidarity appear particularly during
14:30: Mayor Jose Chulvi released a statement; click
15:15: José Manuel García-Margallo,
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation has
been briefed on the current situation by the command
staff at the PMA - Forward Command Post.
15:50: Juanjo Garcia Pastor, president of the Fiesta
Commission of the Mare de Déu de Loreto, has
spoken of his pride in the response of the commission
and of the residents, visitors, the Fishermen's Guild,
the organisations, the associations, clubs, business,
etc. and has given his warmest congratulations and thank
"from the bottom of my heart" for the effort,
selfless involvement and collaboration that has been
demonstrated from the word go.
20:21: The Concorci Bombers d'Alacant reports that
the fire has been stabilised.
PAÍS reported that the Guardia Civil were
looking for suspected arsonists believed to have set
the fires that have destroyed more than 812 hectares
of land. Investigators believe that as many as five
fires were started in La Granadella area as late as
Monday afternoon when the area was already full of fire-fighting
units. Arsonists are also thought to have sparked the
original fire in Benitatchell on Sunday afternoon. Juan
Carlos Moragues, the government delegate for the region,
said: "We want to hear about any leads" and
reminded that the new Penal Code includes new, harsher
punishment for this type of crime and that "whoever
deliberately starts a fire is committing a crime and
will feel the full weight of the law".
09:00: GVA 112CV confirms that the fire has been
stabilised and that four land fire-fighting units
remain working in the area, including three units from
the Bomberoa Consorcio Alicante and one unit from the
Bomberos Forestals GV.
11:55: The Ayuntamiento de Xàbia reports
that work continues in the zone affected by the fire.
Top priority is being given to affected residents (they
are gathering all the information required for insurance
companies in order to process and assess avenues of
help from the administration). An assessment is being
made of damage to public areas. It needs to be clarified
that the Ayuntamiento de Xàbia is the only authority
to reforest the burned area and that THERE IS NO AUTHORISED
CAMPAIGN to collect funds (nor the sale of T-shirts
or fundraising). The authorities also want to make clear
that the Granadella zone is a special protection zone
and will NOT BE REZONED, but all efforts will be directed
into the proper regeneration of the forest.
16:20: Land and air assets are continuing to work on damping down small
hotspots. These assets have included two planes, four units from the
Bombers Alacant, three units from Bombers Forestal GV and 2 regional
brigades. The Ayuntamiento de Xàbia has confirmed that despite
tomorrow Thursday 8th being a local holiday, the OAC in Portal del Clot
will be open between 9.00am and 1.00pm to assist those residents
affected by the fire who need to process paperwork or need information. Due to the fire at Ramblars landfill site, the facility has had to
close and garden rubbish cannot be deposited there. The Department of
Services are looking for a suitable alternative plot for this type of
waste but this will not be available until next week. It is therefore
requested that the public keep their garden refuse at home until further
09:30: Throughout the night, seven units from the Concorcio Bombers
d'Alacant and one unit from the Bombers Forestals GV have been
maintaining surveillance tasks over the affected area. The fire remains
stabilized. This morning, they are being supported by a further unit
from the Bombers Forestals GV, a unit from the regional fire-fighting
entity and two brigades from Divalterra in damping down tasks. Guardia
Civil and SEPRONA are focusing their efforts on seaching for
the cause of the inferno with a witness claiming that they saw two cars
leaving at speed from the urbanisation Cumbres del Sol just before the
outbreak of the initial fire. Arson remains their main line of
investigation. The fire at the garden refuse dump in Ramblars continues
to be controlled. Residents of Xàbia have declared Friday 9th - the day
of La Vuelta - as a "day of green" to show solidarity and green T-shirts
are available with the slogan "Xàbia Sempre Verda" - Xàbia Evergreen -
raising funds for the Protección Civil whose volunteers worked alongside
the professional firefighters against the inferno.
14:00: GVA 112CV reports that a helicopter with
a thermal-imaging camera has been mobilised to inspect
and locate potential hotspot in the affected area.
PAÍS reported that the regional government
will ensure that land damaged by the recent spate of
forest fires in the region - including that of Xàbia
and Benitatxell - cannot be rezoned for construction
purposes. President Ximo Puig said that his administration's
goal is "for nobody to ever have the slightest
interest in burning down woodland for rezoning. The
PSEO- led regional administration had already overturned
earlier legislation allowing land damaged by fire to
be used for building "on an exceptional basis".
Puig confirmed: "This can no longer be done in
the Valencian region. It can in other parts of Spain.
We are dealing with environmental terrorism that affects
this region's natural heritage and the lives of many
10:50: Work continues to bring the fire under control
with several units from the Regional Forestry Brigade
and the Alicante Fire Brigade.
10:00: Work continues to bring the fire under control
with units from the Regional Forestry Brigade and the
Alicante Fire Brigade.
13:00: Work continues to bring the fire under control
with units from the Regional Forestry Brigade and the
20:00: Fire officially declared controlled.
20:30: Fire officially declared extinguished.