Winds from Storm Ciarán whip up a wildfire in eastern Spain as 850 people are evacuated

MADRID (AP) — A wildfire abetted by storm winds in eastern Spain has burned some 2,000 hectares (4,900 acres) of land and forced the evacuation of 850 people from four towns, officials said Friday.

Some 200 firefighters and army emergency unit soldiers were deployed to try to extinguish the day-old blaze near the eastern town of Montitxelvo. The regional government of Valencia said it hoped five water-carrying planes and helicopters would be deployed in the operation.

Regional president Carlos Mazón called on people to avoid travel in the area or activities in forests that could start fires.

State news agency Efe said winds in the zone reached some 120 kph (75 mph) overnight. Mazón describe the winds as the main element fueling the fire in the mountainous and wooded terrain.

The fire comes as Spain, like much of Europe, continues to face heavy rains and gales from Storm Ciarán. However, the rain and low temperatures have not helped prevent the wildfire.

Spain has been suffering a drought for the past two years, intensified by climate change. Because the land is so parched, it is unable to absorb much of the storm water, which will run off into the rivers before reaching the Mediterranean.