Ranger dies in Spain blaze after German lights toilet paper

August 4, 2016 11:53 pm
Members of the Military Emergency Unit (UME) look at a map on the outskirts of the town of El Paso on the Spanish Canary Island of La Palma on August 4, 2016 as smoke from a wildfire rises skywards © AFP / Desiree Martin

, Santa Cruz de la Palma, Spain, Aug 4 – A park ranger died while fighting a blaze in the Canary Islands allegedly sparked by a German man who set fire to toilet paper after defecating in the woods, authorities said Thursday.

Some 700 people were evacuated from areas near the blaze, which is sweeping through a wooded, mountainous area in La Palma, one of the lesser-known, unspoiled islands of the Spanish archipelago off the coast of Africa.

Emergency services said a further 1,800 were being moved from their homes on Thursday night as the blaze showed no sign of abating.

“The fire has not come under control yet,” Fernando Clavijo, regional president of the Canaries, told reporters.

“The situation may get more complicated throughout the night. It’s not going to be easy.”

The ranger, Francisco Jose Santana, died while working to put out the flames, said Spain’s UGT union of which the 54-year-old was a member.

“He leaves a wife and five children,” it added.

A spokesman for the Guardia Civil police force told AFP a 27-year-old German man was arrested Wednesday afternoon, suspected of having caused the fire.

A woman watches as smoke rises from a wildfire raging on the outskirts of the town of El Paso on the Spanish Canary island of La Palma on August 4, 2016 © AFP / Desiree Martin

The man, whose identity has not been revealed, “told officers he accidentally provoked the blaze when he defecated… and set fire to the toilet paper he used for that,” the Guardia Civil added in a statement.

The man has been accused of causing a forest fire through negligence, and was expected to be questioned by a judge Thursday, it said.

Some 200 people are fighting the blaze, as are helicopters and planes, a spokeswoman for the Canary Islands’ emergency services said.

Weather conditions are not making their task any easier, as high temperatures and strong winds fan the flames, she added.

Acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy sent his condolences to the park ranger’s bereaved family.


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