Forest Fire In Spain Prompts Evacuation Of 6,000 People

MADRID, Spain (AP) -- A forest fire fueled by gusty winds charred a large swath of a nature reserve in eastern Spain Friday and burned its way toward villages, forcing the evacuation of some 6,000 people.

No injuries have been reported in the fire in Sierra Calderona, a mountainous area of Valencia province.

The blaze has blackened more than 700 hectares ((1,800 acres) of land since it broke out Thursday night and was burning out of control at midday Friday, the regional emergency coordination office said.

Authorities ordered the evacuation of the town of Naquera, home to around 3,000 people, rushing in chartered buses for people assembling in the town square. They braved choking dust and smoke, and some carried their pets with them, the national news agency Efe reported.

Thousands more were forced from their homes in at least three other villages.

The fire is believed to have been set deliberately because inspectors have detected four separate fronts, regional interior minister Luis Ibanez told reporters.

Some 300 firefighters aided by 20 helicopters and water-dumping planes struggled to extinguish the fire, fed by gusts of wind.

Authorities called it the worst fire this summer in the Valencia region.

In the first seven months of the year, forest fires killed four people and burned 86,000 hectares (215,000 acres) of land around Spain, the environmental protection department of the Civil Guard said Thursday.