BARCELONA, Spain — Firefighters in Spain and Germany struggled to contain wildfires on Sunday during an unusual heat wave in Western Europe for this time of year.
The worst damage in Spain has been in the northwestern province of Zamora, where more than 25,000 hectares (61,000 acres) have been consumed, regional authorities said. In contrast, German officials said residents of three villages near Berlin were ordered to leave their homes because of an approaching forest fire Sunday.
The Spanish authorities said that after three days of high temperatures, strong winds, and low humidity, there was some calm on Sunday morning, with temperatures falling. That enabled about 650 firefighters, supported by water-dumping planes, to establish a perimeter around the blaze that started in Zamora’s Sierra de la Culebra. Authorities warned there was still a danger that an adverse weather change could revive the fires that caused the evacuation of 18 villages.
Spain is on the lookout for an outbreak of severe forest fires as the country swelters under record temperatures in many parts of the country in June. Thermometers have risen above 40 C (104 F) all week in many Spanish cities – temperatures normally expected in August. Experts link the abnormally hot period for Europe to climate change.
A lack of rain this year and gusts of wind have provided the fire conditions.
Authorities said wind gusts up to 70 km/h that changed course erratically, combined with temperatures around 40°C, made it very difficult for the crews.
“The fire could cross a reservoir about 500 meters wide and reach the other side, to give you an idea of the difficulties we faced,” Juan Suárez-Quiñones, an official for the Castilla y León region, told the newspaper. Spanish state television TVE.
An electrical storm started the fire in Zamora on Wednesday, authorities said. The spreading fire interrupted high-speed train service from Madrid to northwestern Spain on Saturday. Sunday morning, it was restored.
Military fire-fighting units have been deployed in Zamora, Navarra, and Lleida.
There are no reports of loss of life, but flames reached the outskirts of some villages in both Zamora and Navarra. Videos shot by passengers in cars show flames licking the roadsides. In other towns, residents watched desperately as black plumes rose from nearby hills.
In central Navarra, authorities have evacuated some 15 small villages as a precaution, as high temperatures in the area are not expected to drop until Wednesday.
They also asked farmers to stop using heavy machinery that could inadvertently start fires.
“The situation remains delicate. We have several active fires due to the extremely high temperatures and high winds,” Javier Remírez, regional vice president of Navarra, told TVE.
Remírez said some villages had damaged buildings on the outskirts.
Authorities said some wild animals had to be evacuated from an animal park in Navarra and taken to an arena for safekeeping.
There were also forest fires in three parts of northeastern Catalonia: in Lleida, in Tarragona, and in a natural park in Garaf, just south of Barcelona.
Firefighters said 2,700 hectares (6,600 acres) were scorched in Lleida. They added that in the past week, they have responded to more than 200 wildfires in Catalonia.
In Germany, strong winds fanned the blaze about 50 kilometers (31 miles) southwest of Berlin, prompting officials to declare a state of emergency on Saturday.
Villagers in Frohnsdorf, Tiefenbrunnen, and Klausdorf were told to immediately seek shelter at a community center in the nearby town of Treuenbrietzen.
“This is not an exercise,” city officials tweeted.
Germany has experienced numerous forest fires in recent days after a period of intense heat and little rain.
The country’s national weather bureau said the mercury reached 38 C (100.4 F) on Sunday at a monitoring station in the east.
Cooler weather was predicted to arrive from the west in the evening.
Frank Jordans contributed to this report from Berlin.