Spanish troops are assisting firefighters battling a raging blaze that has emptied out Andalusian villages and burned through forest land for days.
Already, the fires have forced hundreds of people out of their homes in the south of the country. Six more villages and towns were evacuated on Sunday.
“We have talked for a long time about the consequences of abandoning the environment or climate change. Today, we are living them,” Juan Sánchez, director of the operations center at Andalusia’s forest fire agency, told reporters.
At least 365 firefighters were tackling “the most complex fire we have seen in recent times,” he added.
Billowing clouds of smoke could be seen rising from the Sierra Bermeja mountains, in footage from emergency workers who dug through the woods to rein in the flames. Helicopters cruised above, dropping water into the valley.
Since the wildfire broke out on Wednesday around the resort town of Estepona, fanned by strong winds, it has torched more than 6,000 hectares (14,826 acres) of forest. A 44-year-old firefighter died last week in the ravages.
Spain’s military emergency unit deployed 260 soldiers on Sunday to help shield nearby towns, the defense ministry said.
Some of those who left their homes before the flames could reach them sheltered in a sports stadium overnight.
Carmen Crespo, the regional environment chief, had questioned whether the wildfire may have been started deliberately and promised an investigation.
A heat wave scorching much of southern Europe this summer fueled wildfires that forced thousands to flee and engulfed forests from Italy to the Balkans, Greece and Turkey. Many scientists have blamed climate change.
And while infernos burned across Siberia in Russia’s north, unforgiving flames have also exhausted firefighters in California in recent months.