Fire La Gomera 2012

This street light in Valle Gran Rey did not
burn but the intense heat of the inferno melted
the glass panes. Amazingly it still works today!

The fires on La Gomera are long extinguished and rehabilitation is progressing well ! 

This page offers a summary of events, links to previous posts, followed by additional images


The wildfires and forest fires in the Canaries that made headlines internationally began on La Gomera on the 4th of August (leading me to start this blog), spread later in the month, and fanned by hot winds spread to a large area of the island. About 8% of the whole island was seriously affected and 18% of the national park was damaged or destroyed. Over 100 houses were partially or totally burnt down, most of them in the upper part of the beautiful Valle Gran Rey district. Thousands of people were evacuated and had to spend anxious nights in shelters.
While the investigation into the cause of the fires is still ongoing, it is widely accepted that arson was behind the first three fires that erupted in different locations within a very short time span, and previous attempts at arson were numerous . The extreme weather conditions with hot, dry and strong winds after an almost rainless previous year did the rest. It all culminated in a most dangerous 'thermal inversion' in the upper part of Valle Gran Rey that trapped the hot, smoky air from the forest fires with a hot dry wind that blew sparks into this explosive mix in the deep and narrow part of the valley and the ensuing inferno caused a lot of devastation in some places in a very short time. I saw two stacks of the same type of planks used for roofing side by side and the blaze left hardly any remnants of one of the stacks, while the second just two inches away remained totally intact. Similar scenes that were difficult to comprehend were to be seen in many places and showed the explosive nature of the fire.
In the forest the fires spread just as suddenly and were difficult to combat due to the inaccessibility of some terrain and the adverse weather conditions. The fires even spread underground through roots and dry organic matter in the soil.
The blaze lasted about ten weeks and up to 7 hydro-planes and 9 helicopters threw countless tons of water strategically onto the fires, with numerous firefighters from all over the Canaries together with specialised military units from mainland Spain battling on the ground day and night. Thanks to their heroic efforts lots of areas were spared and greater damage was avoided. A special thank you also to the Moroccans who sent two hydro-planes with crews while no aid was offered from European countries where these specialised aircraft remained idly parked in the rain.

After the fire:

First of all let me state that miraculously there was no loss of life and no serious injury.
The fires were eventually brought under control, and aided by the first rains of the season all the work now concentrates on restoration. Nature itself has shown to be resilient in a lot of places and new green shoots can be seen sprouting from blackened trunks, from roots left intact in the ground and even from seeds that have survived the intense heat.
Nearly all the scorched palm tress have developed new green crowns. The local type of palm called 'phoenix canariensis' probably got its name due to its resistance to fire and locals say it grows even more strongly after a blaze.
Forest workers are using burnt trunks to erect barriers against erosion, and this measure has proven very effective during the recent heavy rainfalls. Groups of volunteers and professionals have begun with re-forestation. Miles of power lines and hundreds of poles are being replaced, and water mains are being repaired. Burnt down houses are making progress in reconstruction, while debris and scorched material is still being removed from affected areas, completing the clean-up.  However, help and donations are still needed (see Nr.11 below in the list of previous posts). 
Update: A 'solidarity calendar' for 2013 has been published in aid of the victims, see:Solidarity Calendar Now On Sale

Most importantly: 

Nearly ALL the tourism infrastructure was left intact by the fires and even most of the forest walks are open and can be enjoyed today. All hotels, shops, restaurants, etc. are the same as before and lots of tourists don't notice anything unusual. The most important areas of the national park were not affected at all. The overall impression is one of 'beautiful as usual' and of rapid rehabilitation in the affected areas !

Remember that La Gomera's economy much depends on tourism and the highly exaggerated media coverage of the fires nearly did as much damage as the fires themselves.

More detailed previous posts relating to 'Fires on La Gomera' (oldest posts last, click item to read) or use the archive on sidebar instead:
  1. Fires again - to prevent fires
  2. 1200 Palm trees affected by fire cleaned
  3. Why September 11th will never be forgotten on La G...
  4. Fire 'controlled'. Pyromaniacs still at large. App...
  5. Latest: Fire on La Gomera again. Arson! +UPDATES
  6. Tenerife Weekly publishes posts from this blog
  7. One year after the fire came down Valle Gran Rey
  8. Brush fire quickly extinguished
  9. Rally to mark 1st anniversary of outbreak of fires...
  10. La Gomera to get firefighting aircraft very soon
  11. More fruit trees for fire victims
  12. Hens For Fire Victims
  13. Fruit Trees For Fire Victims
  14. Solidarity Calendar Now On Sale
  15. Gold for La Gomera firefighters
  16. After the fires: La Gomera in the newsThe UK Daily...
  17. NEWS: La Gomera fires finally declared 'under cont...
  18. Fires still not completely extinguishedTomorrow it.
  19. Benefit show tonightThe 'We Love Nooctua' show wit...
  20. 3000 march in protest in San Sebastian, La GomeraC...          
  21. Demonstration in San Sebastian on Sat.,Sept.1st, 
  22. Is it all over ? Political fires now raging !The f..
  23. Important & interesting Link:The official La Gomer..
  24. La Gomera is recovering
  25. The clean-up operation in V...
  26. Friends of La GomeraThere is a lot of goodwill tow.
  27. Update: Nothing much has changedI promise a more e...
  28. Update: Fires on La Gomera islandGOOD NEWS: All ro...
  29. La Gomera fire is now almost completely out+++All ...
  30. The fires on La Gomera are close to being 'stable'...
  31. Fires on La Gomera still activeWhile the weather h...
  32. More than 11% of La Gomera now affected by fire......
  34. La Gomera fires updateThe situation seems to be wo...
  35. 2500 evacuated due to the forest fires on La Gomer...
  36. The fires on La Gomera  are still ragingThe situat...
  37. More bad news: The fires are still raging and as a...
  38. So far - sooo bad. Sorry for the late update. I we...
  39. It really doesn't look good. The island government...
  40. Now there's a lot of smoke to be seen  over the SW...
  41. I had barely finished my first post reporting the ...
View from helicopter taken August 2012 © acfi press

Scorched trunks sprouting again in November

La Laguna Grande after the first rainfalls

Inviting for a stroll on La Gomera

Hope sprouting from the roots

La Gomera palms (Phoenix Canariensis) and cane
rising from the ashes

... and early November

Valle Gran Rey 10 days after the blaze...

Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera greening again

Sweet chestnut tress sprouting from the
roots of totally destroyed trunks.

 La Gomera's magical forest is mostly intact

A partially damaged area that is likely to recover well
A huge area of the national park that escaped the fire on La Gomera

Some areas will need longer to recover (above and below)

A totally intact house (right) surrounded by burnt-out shells (taken 2 weeks after the fire)

...the same area in 2016: As if nothing had ever happened

Protesters left burned twigs and ash from burnt houses
at the entrance of the seat of La Gomera's government 

'La Fortaleza', La Gomera's landmark table mountain, which was in flames on the first day of the fire

A hydro-plane coming in over the harbour area of VGR

Part of La Gomera's forest ablaze   ©El Mundo

Plume of smoke over Valle Gran Rey, La Gomera

...coming closer,

and during the night the valley explodes in flames ©Diario de Avisos

....causing an inferno  ©Twitter vía @9Patri

...and waiting for news

The first ferry arrives to take away those who wanted or needed to go just before dawn and later we had...
...lifeboats, buses, a water-bomber and the second large ferry  in the harbour of Valley Gran Rey, La Gomera. 
Life goes on...
Come for a walk on La Gomera

Tranquil harbour and beach in Valle Gran Rey (above)
Upper Valle Gran Rey March 2013

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