The Facts About the Forest Fires in the South of Tenerife

Wed, July 18th, 2012 - By Jack Montgomery

By now the British media will have picked up on the forest fires that are currently raging in the highland areas of the south of Tenerife.

In a bid to attract attention there will no doubt be very few headlines about the fire that don’t mention the word ‘tourist’ – The Telegraph was quick off the mark with a report titled ‘Forest fire rages near Tenerife tourist park’. It’s the first time that we’ve heard Teide National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, referred to as ‘Tenerife tourist park’. But it’ll do the job of making people who are worried about the effect it will have on their two weeks in the sun buy the newspaper.

There will be more sensationalist headlines as long as the fire lasts. To counteract the nonsense, here are some facts about the fire as taken from the horse’s mouth; i.e. press releases from the Tenerife Government.

First of all the fire poses no threat at all to any of Tenerife’s tourist resorts. It is burning in the hills high above Los Cristianos, Playa de las Américas and Costa Adeje. The main threat has been to small farming communities in the hills of Adeje, Guia de Isora and also to the town of Vilaflor.

Since Sunday,  when the fire started, it has spread over an area of 2,000 hectares despite the best attempts of over 500 professional and volunteer fire-fighters and up to 11 helicopters and hydroplanes (three special water-dropping planes arrived from mainland Spain yesterday).

Fire-fighting Helicopter in Tenerife's Hills


A tinder-dry landscape and a heatwave, which has sent temperatures in the hills into the upper 30s and above, hasn’t helped the situation and during Tuesday 17th July, the fire reached the edge of Vilaflor as well as the boundaries of Teide National Park. Accurate reporting of the situation was hampered by all sorts of stories circulating. At least one, claiming that the fire had reached La Orotava town, was probably caused by people using Google translator when they don’t speak Spanish. Spanish press reports stating that the fire had reached the ‘municipality of La Orotava’ (i.e. the edge of National Park) came out as ‘the town of La Orotava’ when translated.

The latest information from the Tenerife Government (as at 8am on Wednesday 18th July) is that whilst most of the perimeter of the fire has been stabilised there are still areas that haven’t been brought under control. The main concentration of fire-fighting resources will continue to attack the fire at Vilaflor whilst the front heading towards Guia de Isora, although still raging, is about to reach a volcanic area where it’s hoped it will be extinguished.


Fire-fighting Helicopter, Tenerife

The fire has been tragically destructive and will have devastated people’s lives, but despite what you might read in the British press over the next few days, it poses no threat to tourists. The only impact it will have on anyone’s holiday at the moment is that they won’t be able to travel to Mount Teide.

Posted : Wednesday, July 18th, 2012 at 10:45 am
Category : news
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8 Responses to “The Facts About the Forest Fires in the South of Tenerife”

  1. […] last couple of evenings; a haze that turns the sun into a fiery ball long before it should. With fires raging on Tenerife’s southern hillsides, the obvious answer is that an ashy cloud has drifted […]

  2. Linda says:

    My sympathy’s lie with the poeple in Tenerife that the fires have affected, not the tourists.

    • Jack says:

      Absolutely Linda, which is why it’s important to tell the facts about who is really affected. The British media usually tries to involve ‘tourists’ in the stories beccaue they know that’s what will attract people’s attention. 5 years ago during the last serious fires some papers ran stories with headlines saying ‘tourists flee Tenerife’s beaches’. Absolute nonnsense. On that occasion it was even on the other side of the island from the main resorts.

  3. Alison Stevens says:

    Different stories are flying around as usual as to where the fire first started and who started it!!!! Was it a genuine accident or was it some foolish people having a barbecue up in the hills or was it a farmer burning crops….it would be nice to find out and lets hope it was not started deliberately also very strange how 3 fires on 3 beautiful islands began within 24 hours….any news on how they began on the other islands.

    Well done to the ones who are working all hours including all the volunteer fire fighters who have day jobs and then leave them and go back upto the hills and work until 4a.m then back to their day jobs…these guys need praising to the hilt and maybe something can be organized to make sure there hard work does not go without some form of payment even though i know they are volunteers but many have families to take care of as well and i am sure their families have not seen their husbands/wives for the last 4 days….Even though they are still not under control well done to all helping.

    • Jack says:

      Unfortunately amongst the bravery, public support and people pulling together as a community there has been rumours, misinformation, hoax stories and mistranslations that have caused a bit of confusion.

      The fire started in agricultural land near to Ifonche. The only thing that I’ve seen (I get my information from updates throughout the day directly from Tenerife’s Government – it’s the only source I trust) about the cause is a press release where the president said that they had initially thought it was a farmer burning scrub-land but further investigation showed that it was more ‘focussed’ which sort of suggests they suspect it was deliberate. But nothing has been confirmed yet. I’m sure it will be.
      As for the other fires, it is strange. The exact same thing happened during the serious fires in 2007 when Tenerife, Gran Canaria, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro all had bad fires at exactly the same time. I don’t know about the cause yet. During summer, fires break out all the time but most of the time they are immediately brought under control so don’t make the English language press. Even with during the southern fire another broke out in Santa Ursula but thankfully was brought under control very quickly.

      The latest news is that they have managed to stabilize most of the fire and are hoping to bring it under control today… as long as the weather doesn’t change.

  4. Travel Blogs says:

    This is the problem with the media today…it’s so sensationalist! Just to echo a comment made earlier, my concerns are for the local residents it has nothing to do with tourists by the sounds of it.

  5. Mary says:

    I am so thankful for your sensible information on this appalling fire – being in England, but with a place on Tenerife, this is so reassuring. You are right, Jack, the sensational approach to misinformation from the British press is very wrong. Hooray for the professionals and volunteers, they are amazing.

  6. […] is said to be the hottest on Tenerife for seventy years, and, sadly, may be remembered for the forest fires, which, I hasten to add, were never close to resort areas. Locals have their own ways of coping […]

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