Thirty-five days after the fateful events of August 15th, we embarked on a journey to the heart of the catastrophic fire that ravaged nearly 15,000 hectares of Tenerife’s pristine forests over a weeklong ordeal. Once the roads affected by the relentless blaze were finally reopened, DIARIO DE AVISOS set out to reach the Lomo Redondo viewpoint, perched at an altitude of 1,225 meters above sea level. It’s located at kilometre 16.5 of the TF-523 road, which connects the town of Arafo with the TF-24 road leading to Teide.
As we ventured from kilometre 10 to the summit, a desolate panorama unfolded before us, marked by stark contrasts that bore the indelible scars of the devastating fire. It was here that we gained a profound appreciation for the immense efforts of ground brigades and aerial resources that tirelessly fought to prevent the fire from consuming farms and homes.
Among the affected properties, Domingo’s farm in Media Montaña and Jacob’s rural house in the same vicinity, boasting the finest chestnut trees in Tenerife, stood amidst the path of destruction. The fire encircled these properties in an area where the famed malvasía grape once flourished, known for its connection to Chivisaya.
This area was also home to Nicomedes, the oldest shepherd in Tenerife, who managed to save his aged house but lost his corrals, along with a handful of goats and a few bucks that narrowly escaped the advancing flames by fleeing down the ravine. Astonishingly, Jacob’s rural tourism property, nestled among chestnut and fruit trees, remained untouched by the fire, almost as if a miracle had occurred there.
The fire ignited on the night of August 15th at 23:30, just as the patron saint of the Canary Islands was entering her basilica after the traditional offering. It began at Lomo Redondo, right by the roadside known as Los Loros, next to a small viewpoint. Swiftly, it descended into the ravine, marking the natural boundary between Arafo and Candelaria, eventually reaching Media Montaña. From there, it continued its rampage through the midlands of Candelaria, ultimately advancing into the forested heights the following day. It crossed the dorsal road and pushed northward into the Orotava Valley.
Subsequently, the fire would return to the Güímar Valley, its birthplace, wreaking havoc on sites vital for biodiversity, such as Los Frailes and notably, the Añavingo ravine in Arafo. It lingered in the uplands of Güímar for several days, posing a threat to vineyards in Las Dehesas and Los Pelados. The fire came within 50 meters of potentially devastating the astrophysical and meteorological centers of Izaña. Thanks to the efforts of a municipal seedbed, the unique cabezón de Añavingo will be restored.
POLICE INVESTIGATION INTO TENERIFE FIRE
“The Guardia Civil has been able to establish that the forest fire that ignited on August 15th in the mountains of Arafo was an act of arson,” stated Fernando Clavijo, the President of the Canary Islands Government, on August 20th. He disclosed that “the Guardia Civil currently has three lines of investigation,” emphasizing the need to allow the authorities to continue their work without interference, as they pursued the alleged perpetrators who jeopardized the lives of thousands of people and property.
However, two days later, sources from the Ministry of the Interior contradicted the President of the Canary Islands Government, stating that the intentionality or provocation of the fire had not been confirmed, as the investigation was ongoing.
The Guardia Civil in Tenerife persists in keeping the investigation open one month after the fire’s ignition, even though it remains uncertain whether the fire was intentionally started. However, other law enforcement sources informed DIARIO DE AVISOS that one of the three lines of investigation initiated at the time is still being pursued. This line of investigation focuses on the presence of a vehicle and two individuals on that fateful night, who left no trace of their whereabouts, as they were not carrying any mobile devices that could place them at Lomo Redondo at 23:30 on August 15th.
The possibility of arson gains strength given the succession of outbreaks—up to six—that occurred in the Valle de Güímar and El Rosario since mid-July, as confirmed by El Rosario’s mayor, Escolástico Gil. He has close ties to the Guardia Civil due to his previous work in the Directorate General of Traffic. The day before these outbreaks, a 50-year-old man was arrested in Los Realejos as the alleged perpetrator of several fires in the north of Tenerife. He was already under investigation due to his extensive knowledge of the forest environment, firefighting techniques, and a prior record of similar incidents dating back to 2007.
Although he was arrested in 2016, there was insufficient evidence to prosecute him. Upon searching his residence, investigators uncovered the clothing he purportedly wore during the commission of the acts, along with 25 lighters, 25 candles, 113 rolled pieces of paper resembling fuses, two bottles of ethyl alcohol, and a mobile phone.
An arsonist faces a prison sentence ranging from 10 to 20 years when their actions endanger human life or physical integrity, as outlined in Article 351 of the Penal Code and Article 352 addressing forest fires. If there is no threat to life or physical integrity, the penalties range from one to five years in prison and a fine of 12 to 24 months. The estimated cost of the damage caused by the fire on the Island Council stands at 80 million euros.
In the municipalities of the Güímar Valley, according to data provided by local councils to the Island Council and the Government Subdelegation, the cost exceeds three million euros: Arafo suffered one and a half million euros in damages, Güímar one million euros, and Candelaria 800,000 euros.
Additionally, Candelaria incurred 67,000 euros in current expenditure to compensate personnel involved in firefighting efforts. These figures are approximate, as the impact on private properties, the presence of insurance policies, and the agricultural sector, particularly fruit trees, vineyards, and chestnut trees, as well as livestock, including beekeeping with the loss of numerous beehives, have yet to be fully assessed.