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Wildfire in Valencia under control, but many still unable to go home

Collapsed structures and debris prevent half of the 3,000 evacuees from returning to houses in or near Gandía

Incendio en Gandia
A house burnt in the fires in Monte Pinar. AFP

The regional government of Valencia on Thursday allowed around half of the 3,000 people who fled the fires near Gandía to return to their homes. But three residential communities within the city limits of this popular Mediterranean destination remain closed for security reasons, and their occupants have been forced to spend another night away from home.

At least a dozen homes have been destroyed

An analysis conducted by Gandía city authorities concluded that there was still a “real danger” from the effects of the fire in the residential communities of Montesol, Montepino and Las Cumbres, including downed power lines, rubble in the streets and collapsed houses.

According to the head of emergencies in the region, José María Ángel, some roads will also need to remain clear of traffic to ensure emergency vehicles can pass through.

Residents and tourists may return to the residential estates of La Ermita de Marxuquera, in Gandía, and La Drova, in the adjoining municipality of Barx. The residents of another nearby village, Pinet, which was completely evacuated on Tuesday night, have been told that they can go home as well.

Evacuees in a community center in Gandía.
Evacuees in a community center in Gandía.

After a fierce three-day battle against flames and strong winds, there are finally positive signs that the wildfire that broke out in Llutxent is under control. But while the outcome looks good, firefighting authorities have warned that they cannot rule out complications from “sudden climate changes.”

The blaze has affected around 40 plots of land and at least a dozen homes have been completely destroyed, according to Valencia regional premier Ximo Puig, who has promised immediate financial relief for anyone who has lost their primary residence.

The leader of the conservative Popular Party (PP), Pablo Casado, has called on authorities to be aware of the risk of more wildfires. “I ask the Spanish government, the regional government, the provincial authority and municipal leaders to be very alert about these issues, and for fire extinction to take a step further towards prevention. There are still difficult weeks ahead because of the temperatures this summer,” said Casado on a visit to the firefighting command center.

View of the fire from Gandía on August 7.
View of the fire from Gandía on August 7. EFE

The lack of wind and high humidity on Wednesday night was key to helping the 800 firefighters and soldiers, supported by 30 helicopters and small aircraft, to control the wildfire, which has devoured more than 3,000 hectares of forest land.

On Wednesday, authorities had warned that a westerly wind could whip up the fire again, pushing it towards the city of Xàtiva. This worst-case scenario has since been ruled out, but there is still concern that a dry westerly wind could revive the fire.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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