There’s a helicopter overhead. At this time of year the reaction to the distinctive sound of chopper blades is that we run outside, fingers crossed that there isn’t a huge bucket swinging underneath the copter’s belly.
Temperatures in the high 20s and no rain all summer sounds like paradise to anyone from a country where you can’t plan a BBQ or camping trip even a couple of days ahead and be sure you won’t be waterlogged.
But as summer reaches its sizzling heights on Tenerife, the price for glorious weather becomes potentially higher and higher.
In Tenerife and the Canary Islands we don’t think ‘I hope there’s no forest fires this year’. There are going to be forest fires. We just desperately hope they aren’t going to be bad ones.
As I type, a helicopter patrols overhead. There’s a plume of smoke in the La Orotava Valley behind Puerto de la Cruz. It isn’t a serious one and the copter has spotted it. A couple of days ago there was a bigger fire near La Fortaleza in Los Realejos. The emergency services brought it under control rapidly.
Last year we watched the forest explode near Santiago del Teide in breezy temperatures of 40+ whilst the people on the island of La Gomera prayed for the end of a fire which devastated part of the Garajonay National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the south of Tenerife hydroplanes were brought in to fight serious fires in the forest above Costa Adeje.
Summer 2012 was always going to be bad because of a drought which affected the archipelago. Whilst there were decent rains in November 2012, there hasn’t been much rainfall since, so although the forests aren’t as dry as last year, they are still tinderboxes.
The causes of the fires are nearly always human related; either arson or stupidity. They are nearly always found to be caused by locals rather than tourists. Visitors from other parts of Europe seem to be more aware of the potential dangers from a carelessly discarded cigarette. We’ve witnessed farmers at agricultural fiestas, where the ground is covered in dry straw, throw cigarette butts into the undergrowth; on one occasion as a fire-fighting helicopter flew overhead.
The authorities are aware of this and when the temperatures soar, regularly advise people not to go into mountainous and forested areas, closing picnic zones and placing a ban on BBQs.
So people go to the beach where, apart from sand and sea, there are fiestas, music festivals, open air cinemas, sports events… and not much chance of anyone accidentally barbecuing the island instead of a slab of beef.
Sticking to the beach in August is sound advice that many people follow. However, in the middle of the month thousands upon thousands of Tinerfeños will take to the hills on their annual pilgrimage to worship the Virgen de la Candelaria in, err… Candelaria.
Last year the pilgrimage coincided with a number of outbreaks of forest fires. Maybe it was coincidence, maybe not.
But in our house we breathe a little sigh of relief when the pilgrimage is over and September arrives without a serious forest fire on Tenerife.
Category : about tenerife
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