Europe heatwave: Man barely escapes Spain wildfire with his life

A heroic man trying to save his village from wildfires ravaging northern Spain was forced to flee the flames after they engulfed his digger and left him with serious burns. 

Terrifying video shows the moment Angel Martin Arjona – who was using a digger to carve out a trench around his village – gets caught by the rapidly advancing fire in Tabara near Zamora, 50 miles west of Valladolid.

For a moment the vehicle completely disappears behind a wall of flame before the man emerges – his clothes burning off him as he runs – and manages to get himself to safety. He has since been taken to hospital with burns.

It was a lucky escape from one among dozens of fires burning across Spain which have already killed two people – a 62-year-old firefighter and 69-year-old shepherd – in the worst heatwave season for at least 15 years.

Across Zamora, some 6,000 people have been forced to evacuate from 32 towns as the flames threaten their homes, while blazes are also burning out of control to the north of Barcelona and in the Galicia region – where a railway track remains closed today after a train almost got consumed by flames on Monday.

Two huge fires are also burning in southern France, in Gironde, where more than 30,000 people have now been forced from their homes. Eric Brocardi, spokesperson for the National Federation of Firefighters of France, said today that crews are facing unprecedented ‘megafires’ that they are struggling to bring under control.

Blazes are also burning in Portugal and Greece, with figures from Europe’s Forest Fire Information System showing four times as many fires as average have taken place so-far this year – burning an area that is more than double the average for this time of year.

Angel Martin Arjona was using a digger to carve out a trench around his village in northern Spain to try and save it from a rapidly advancing fire when he was swallowed by a wall of flame

Terrifying video shows Arjona escaping from the fire as the clothes burn off his back, before eventually making it to safety where he was airlifted to hospital with 'severe burns'

Terrifying video shows Arjona escaping from the fire as the clothes burn off his back, before eventually making it to safety where he was airlifted to hospital with 'severe burns'

Terrifying video shows Arjona escaping from the fire as the clothes burn off his back, before eventually making it to safety where he was airlifted to hospital with ‘severe burns’

Dozens of wildfires are currently burning across Spain and have claimed at least two lives and left multiple others injured, following days of extreme heat that have turned the country into a tinderbox

Dozens of wildfires are currently burning across Spain and have claimed at least two lives and left multiple others injured, following days of extreme heat that have turned the country into a tinderbox

Dozens of wildfires are currently burning across Spain and have claimed at least two lives and left multiple others injured, following days of extreme heat that have turned the country into a tinderbox

Firefighters work in front of hills in Zamora, northern Spain, that are glowing orange from wildfires that are currently scorching their way across the region following an intense heatwave

Firefighters work in front of hills in Zamora, northern Spain, that are glowing orange from wildfires that are currently scorching their way across the region following an intense heatwave

Firefighters work in front of hills in Zamora, northern Spain, that are glowing orange from wildfires that are currently scorching their way across the region following an intense heatwave

At least two people - a 62-year-old firefighter and 69-year-old shepherd - have been killed in the wildfire raging in Zamora (pictured) which is rapidly advancing across acres of grassland

At least two people - a 62-year-old firefighter and 69-year-old shepherd - have been killed in the wildfire raging in Zamora (pictured) which is rapidly advancing across acres of grassland

At least two people – a 62-year-old firefighter and 69-year-old shepherd – have been killed in the wildfire raging in Zamora (pictured) which is rapidly advancing across acres of grassland

Firefighters work at the site of a wildfire outside Tabara, Zamora, on the second heatwave of the year, in Spain

Firefighters work at the site of a wildfire outside Tabara, Zamora, on the second heatwave of the year, in Spain

Firefighters work at the site of a wildfire outside Tabara, Zamora, on the second heatwave of the year, in Spain

'Very extreme danger' of fire warnings are in place across northern Spain, parts of northern France, and a large part of England today - with 'extreme danger' warnings widespread as a heatwave turns the continent into a tinder-box

'Very extreme danger' of fire warnings are in place across northern Spain, parts of northern France, and a large part of England today - with 'extreme danger' warnings widespread as a heatwave turns the continent into a tinder-box

‘Very extreme danger’ of fire warnings are in place across northern Spain, parts of northern France, and a large part of England today – with ‘extreme danger’ warnings widespread as a heatwave turns the continent into a tinder-box

It comes as Europe swelters through a heatwave that has smashed temperature records across the continent and is still sweeping its way north – with the UK almost certain to see its all-time temperature record broken today.

Western France baked in the heat yesterday, with records broken up and down the coast – 40C (104F) in Brest, 42C (108F) in Nantes, 42.6 (109F) in Landes and 42.4C (108.5F) in Gironde were all unprecedented.

Temperatures have eased today, particularly in south-west France, though strong winds bringing colder air have fanned the flames of wildfires burning there. Some relief will come overnight tonight with rain forecast, but even that could fail to tamp out the flames completely.

Cooler temperatures have also improved the situation across much of Portugal which had baked through a record-breaking heatwave last week, and Spain is also cooling off – though the break will be brief, with forecasters saying the heat will return in just a few days.

The heatwave – driven at least in part by climate change – has caused wildfires to spring up across Europe at four times their yearly average this year, coming just a year after much of the continent experienced extreme wet weather last year which killed hundreds in flooding in Germany.

At least half the continent is now suffering through some form of drought, with around 10 per cent under the highest ‘alert’ level – meaning vegetation is struggling to survive in extremely dry conditions.

Thousands of excess deaths are predicted due to the heatwave, with Spain and Portugal saying 1,027 have already perished with another 1,000 due to die in the UK as temperatures break records today. 

The hot weather in the U.K. was expected to be so severe this week that train operators warned it could warp the rails and some schools set up wading pools to help children cool off.

In France, heat records were broken and swirling hot winds complicated firefighting in the country’s southwest.

‘The fire is literally exploding,’ said Marc Vermeulen, the regional fire service chief who described tree trunks shattering as flames consumed them, sending burning embers into the air and further spreading the blazes.

‘We’re facing extreme and exceptional circumstances,’ he said.

A satellite image taken on Monday shows the extent of one of two huge wildfires raging in southern France amidst the heatwave, with the brown area showing vegetation that has already burned and the smoke showing areas still on fire

A satellite image taken on Monday shows the extent of one of two huge wildfires raging in southern France amidst the heatwave, with the brown area showing vegetation that has already burned and the smoke showing areas still on fire

A satellite image taken on Monday shows the extent of one of two huge wildfires raging in southern France amidst the heatwave, with the brown area showing vegetation that has already burned and the smoke showing areas still on fire

A satellite image taken on Monday shows the extent of a second wildfire burning in Gironde, in the south of France, with brown areas indicating where has already been torched and smoke showing where flames are still raging

A satellite image taken on Monday shows the extent of a second wildfire burning in Gironde, in the south of France, with brown areas indicating where has already been torched and smoke showing where flames are still raging

A satellite image taken on Monday shows the extent of a second wildfire burning in Gironde, in the south of France, with brown areas indicating where has already been torched and smoke showing where flames are still raging

Flames rise at a forest fire near Louchats in Gironde, southwestern France, where more than 30,000 people have been forced to flee their homes due to the advancing flames

Flames rise at a forest fire near Louchats in Gironde, southwestern France, where more than 30,000 people have been forced to flee their homes due to the advancing flames

Flames rise at a forest fire near Louchats in Gironde, southwestern France, where more than 30,000 people have been forced to flee their homes due to the advancing flames

Two huge wildfires burning in Gironde, southern France, have consumed almost 17,000 acres of forest since they began around a week ago due to very high temperatures in the region

Two huge wildfires burning in Gironde, southern France, have consumed almost 17,000 acres of forest since they began around a week ago due to very high temperatures in the region

Two huge wildfires burning in Gironde, southern France, have consumed almost 17,000 acres of forest since they began around a week ago due to very high temperatures in the region

Firefighters take positions as smoke rises from a forest fire near Louchats, in Gironde, south-western France

Firefighters take positions as smoke rises from a forest fire near Louchats, in Gironde, south-western France

Firefighters take positions as smoke rises from a forest fire near Louchats, in Gironde, south-western France

Firefighters unroll the fire hose at a forest fire near Louchats, 22 miles from Landiras in Gironde, southwestern France

Firefighters unroll the fire hose at a forest fire near Louchats, 22 miles from Landiras in Gironde, southwestern France

Firefighters unroll the fire hose at a forest fire near Louchats, 22 miles from Landiras in Gironde, southwestern France

Authorities evacuated more towns, moving another 14,900 people from areas that could find themselves in the path of the fires and choking smoke. 

In all, more than 31,000 people have been forced from their homes and summer vacation spots in the Gironde region since the wildfires began July 12.

Three additional planes were sent to join six others fighting the fires, scooping up seawater and making repeated runs through dense clouds of smoke, the Interior Ministry said Sunday night.

More than 200 reinforcements headed to join the 1,500 firefighters trying to contain the blazes in the Gironde, where flames neared prized vineyards and billowed smoke across the Arcachon maritime basin famed for its oysters and beaches.

Spain, meanwhile, reported a second fatality in two days in its own blazes. The body of a 69-year-old sheep farmer was found Monday in the same hilly area where a 62-year-old firefighter died a day earlier when he was trapped by flames in the northwestern Zamora province. 

More than 30 forest fires around Spain have forced the evacuation of thousands of people and blackened 220 square kilometers (85 square miles) of forest and scrub.

Passengers on a train through Zamora got a frightening, close look at a blaze, when their train halted in the countryside. Video of the unscheduled – and unnerving – stop showed about a dozen passengers in a railcar becoming alarmed as they looked out of the windows at the flames encroaching on both sides of the track.

Climate scientists say heat waves are more intense, more frequent and longer because of climate change – and coupled with droughts have made wildfires harder to fight. They say climate change will continue to make weather more extreme and wildfires more frequent and destructive.

‘Climate change kills,’ Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Monday during a visit to the Extremadura region, the site of three major blazes. ‘It kills people, it kills our ecosystems and biodiversity.’

Teresa Ribera, Spain’s minister for ecological transition, described her country as ‘literally under fire’ as she attended talks on climate change in Berlin.

Firefighters try to extinguish a wildfire next to the village of Tabara, near Zamora, northern Spain

Firefighters try to extinguish a wildfire next to the village of Tabara, near Zamora, northern Spain

Firefighters try to extinguish a wildfire next to the village of Tabara, near Zamora, northern Spain

A firefighter tries to extinguish a wildfire next to the village of Tabara, near Zamora, northern Spain

A firefighter tries to extinguish a wildfire next to the village of Tabara, near Zamora, northern Spain

A firefighter tries to extinguish a wildfire next to the village of Tabara, near Zamora, northern Spain

Spain is suffering through its worst wildfire season for 15 years, sparked by two intense heatwaves that have dried the country to a crisp - with more hot weather on the way

Spain is suffering through its worst wildfire season for 15 years, sparked by two intense heatwaves that have dried the country to a crisp - with more hot weather on the way

Spain is suffering through its worst wildfire season for 15 years, sparked by two intense heatwaves that have dried the country to a crisp – with more hot weather on the way

Firefighters stand guard as they look at fire in the village of Tabara, near Zamora, northwest Spain

Firefighters stand guard as they look at fire in the village of Tabara, near Zamora, northwest Spain

Firefighters stand guard as they look at fire in the village of Tabara, near Zamora, northwest Spain

Firefighters use a bulldozer to shift earth on top of flames in an attempt to halt the advance of a wildfire burning in Spain

Firefighters use a bulldozer to shift earth on top of flames in an attempt to halt the advance of a wildfire burning in Spain

Firefighters use a bulldozer to shift earth on top of flames in an attempt to halt the advance of a wildfire burning in Spain

Firefighters from the Brigadas de Refuerzo en Incendios Forestales (BRIF) tackle a fire in a wheat field in Tabara, Zamora, on the second heatwave of the year, in Spain

Firefighters from the Brigadas de Refuerzo en Incendios Forestales (BRIF) tackle a fire in a wheat field in Tabara, Zamora, on the second heatwave of the year, in Spain

Firefighters from the Brigadas de Refuerzo en Incendios Forestales (BRIF) tackle a fire in a wheat field in Tabara, Zamora, on the second heatwave of the year, in Spain

A view shows the fire reaching a wheat field near Tabara, Zamora, on the second heatwave of the year, in Spain

A view shows the fire reaching a wheat field near Tabara, Zamora, on the second heatwave of the year, in Spain

A view shows the fire reaching a wheat field near Tabara, Zamora, on the second heatwave of the year, in Spain

She warned of ‘terrifying prospects still for the days to come’ – after more than 10 days of temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), cooling only moderately at night.

At least 748 heat-related deaths have been reported in the heat wave in Spain and neighboring Portugal, where temperatures reached 47 C (117 F) earlier this month.

The heat wave in Spain was forecast to ease on Tuesday, but the respite will be brief as temperatures rise again on Wednesday, especially in the dry western Extremadura region.

In Britain, officials have issued the first-ever extreme heat warning, and the weather service forecast that the record high of 38.7 C (101.7 F), set in 2019, could be shattered.

‘Forty-one isn’t off the cards,’ said Met Office CEO Penelope Endersby. ‘We’ve even got some 43s in the model, but we’re hoping it won’t be as high as that.’

France’s often-temperate Brittany region sweltered with a record 39.3 C (102.7 F) degrees in the port of Brest, surpassing a high of 35.1 C that had stood since September 2003, French weather service Meteo-France said.

Regional records in France were broken in over a dozen towns, as the weather service said Monday was ‘the hottest day of this heat wave.’

The Balkans region expected the worst of the heat later this week, but has already seen sporadic wildfires.

Early Monday, authorities in Slovenia said firefighters brought one fire under control. Croatia sent a water-dropping plane there to help after struggling last week with its own wildfires along the Adriatic Sea. A fire in Sibenik forced some people to evacuate their homes but was later extinguished.

In Portugal, much cooler weather Monday helped fire crews make progress. More than 600 firefighters attended four major fires in northern Portugal.

A Croatian Canadair firefighting airplane drops water on a large wildfire burning in the hills above Rence, in Slovenia

A Croatian Canadair firefighting airplane drops water on a large wildfire burning in the hills above Rence, in Slovenia

A Croatian Canadair firefighting airplane drops water on a large wildfire burning in the hills above Rence, in Slovenia

Firefighters put tanks of cooking gas into a swimming pool to stop them from exploding as a wildfire bears down on a five-star hotel in Gironde, in the south-west of France

Firefighters put tanks of cooking gas into a swimming pool to stop them from exploding as a wildfire bears down on a five-star hotel in Gironde, in the south-west of France

Firefighters put tanks of cooking gas into a swimming pool to stop them from exploding as a wildfire bears down on a five-star hotel in Gironde, in the south-west of France

A water-bombing plane circles above a wildfire burning near the town of La Teste-de-Buch, in south-western France

A water-bombing plane circles above a wildfire burning near the town of La Teste-de-Buch, in south-western France

A water-bombing plane circles above a wildfire burning near the town of La Teste-de-Buch, in south-western France

People work on a boat, as plumbs of smoke produced by wildfires in La Teste-de-Buch forest are seen in the background

People work on a boat, as plumbs of smoke produced by wildfires in La Teste-de-Buch forest are seen in the background

People work on a boat, as plumbs of smoke produced by wildfires in La Teste-de-Buch forest are seen in the background

Beachgoers watch smoke produced by wildfires in La Teste-de-Buch forest, Arcachon, France

Beachgoers watch smoke produced by wildfires in La Teste-de-Buch forest, Arcachon, France

Beachgoers watch smoke produced by wildfires in La Teste-de-Buch forest, Arcachon, France

Firefighters rest after working on a fire near Landiras, as wildfires continue to spread in the Gironde region of France

Firefighters rest after working on a fire near Landiras, as wildfires continue to spread in the Gironde region of France

Firefighters rest after working on a fire near Landiras, as wildfires continue to spread in the Gironde region of France

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