MADRID (AP) — Nearly 800 people have been evacuated from their homes and road traffic has been disrupted as firefighting teams and planes fight a wildfire in southwestern Spain, regional authorities said Thursday.
The blaze in a mountain range of the Malaga province broke out late Wednesday and grew overnight, prompting the first evacuation of some 400 people near the resort town of Estepona.
As the blaze expanded, more housing developments were emptied by authorities on Thursday.
Around 250 firefighters were working to extinguish the fire on the ground, helped by 29 planes and helicopters, authorities said.
José Gracia Urbano, the mayor of Estepona, told reporters that investigators were looking at the fire as possible arson, given that it started in two different places late in the evening as the wind was gusting up.
“It’s very suspicious,” Urbano said, in comments carried by TVE, Spain’s public broadcaster.
Smoke from the blaze also led to the closure of some 14 kilometers (9 miles) on the AP-7, a major motorway. Although traffic resumed by mid-Thursday, it was blocked again in the afternoon as stronger winds fanned the flames. At least two smaller roads remained closed.
The regional fire extinguishing service said that the rugged terrain made quelling the flames “difficult.”
“It has pronounced slopes and there is a strong west wind that is complicating the work,” Infoca said in a statement.
Wildfires — some natural and others manmade — are common in southern Europe during the hot, dry summer months.
Spain’s Ministry for Ecological Transition said that, as of Aug. 29, 74,200 hectares (186,000 acres) of forest and bush areas in the country had burnt in 2021.