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Out-of-control wildfire near Costa del Sol’s Estepona resort kills a firefighter, forces evacuation

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A devastating bushfire that strikes the mountains behind the popular resort of Estepona on the Costa del Sol has killed a firefighter and forced 1,000 people to flee their homes.

Officials have confirmed that a 44-year-old firefighter was killed on Thursday afternoon as he and colleagues tried to fight the ‘out of control’ fire.

Many of the local residents and holidaymakers said they had to leave their homes to spend the night in hotels or in their cars, although a small number were placed in a sports pavilion in Estepona prepared to accommodate around 100 people.

A residential area in Benahavis near Marbella has been evacuated, along with two others near Estepona, including Forest Hills. Several Britons are among those known to have to vacate the area.

Local reports say a house and part of another building were destroyed by flames.

Strong westerly winds continue to hamper efforts to bring the blaze under control, affecting four municipalities near the Costa del Sol beaches popular with British holidaymakers.

A devastating bushfire that hits the mountains behind the popular resort of Estepona on the Costa del Sol has killed a firefighter and forced 1,000 people to flee their homes

Many of the local residents and holidaymakers have been told to leave their homes and spend the night in hotels or in their cars after raging wildfires broke out near the Costa del Sol resort of Estepona

Many of the local residents and holidaymakers have been told to leave their homes and spend the night in hotels or in their cars after raging wildfires broke out near the Costa del Sol resort of Estepona

Officials confirmed that a 44-year-old firefighter (not pictured) was killed Thursday afternoon as he tried to fight the 'out of control' fire with colleagues

Officials confirmed that a 44-year-old firefighter (not pictured) was killed Thursday afternoon as he tried to fight the ‘out of control’ fire with colleagues

The alarm was raised around 9:30 am on Wednesday and six hours later, level one of a regional wildfire emergency plan was activated in response to the threat to life and property posed by the fire.

Major roads, including part of the AP-7 highway that runs along the Costa del Sol, were closed when the operation to contain the wildfire was launched.

Nearly 9,000 hectares of land have already been consumed by fire, making the fire the most devastating of the past decade in the province of Malaga.

Carmen Crespo, Andalusia’s regional agriculture minister, confirmed the death of the firefighter, identified only by his first name and initials as Carlos MH.

“We owe him everything.”

Photos showed a plume of black smoke drifting from the mountains to the Mediterranean Sea

Photos showed a plume of black smoke drifting from the mountains to the Mediterranean Sea

Smoke and orange light filled the sky over the Costa del Sol resort town of Estepona as wildfires forced an evacuation of the city on Thursday

Smoke and orange light filled the sky over the Costa del Sol resort town of Estepona as wildfires forced an evacuation of the city on Thursday

Firefighters take break after a colleague dies while fighting 'out of control' fire near Costa del Sol resort of Estepona

Firefighters take break after a colleague dies while fighting ‘out of control’ fire near Costa del Sol resort of Estepona

Images posted online showed the extent of the wildfires

Video showed the fires raging late into the night near the seaside town of Estepona.  on the Costa del Sol

Images posted online showed the extent of the bushfires, seen overnight near the seaside town of Estepona on the Costa del Sol

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez added in a tweet, describing the dedication of the firefighters involved in the operation to get the blaze under control as “admirable”.

“A hug from my entire government to the family and colleagues of the firefighter who died today fighting the Sierra Bermeja fire.”

More than 400 professionals were deployed to Sierra Bermeja late Thursday to fight the blaze.

Seven planes and helicopters would join them at first light this morning to assist them from the air.

Satellite images showed a plume of black smoke drifting from the mountains to the Mediterranean.

Major roads, including part of the AP-7 highway that runs along the Costa del Sol, were closed on Wednesday as the wildfire containment operation sprang into action.

Major roads, including part of the AP-7 highway that runs along the Costa del Sol, were closed on Wednesday as the wildfire containment operation sprang into action.

At least 1,000 people were forced to evacuate after a forest fire near the Costa del Sol resort of Estepona was deemed 'out of control'

At least 1,000 people were forced to evacuate after a forest fire near the Costa del Sol resort of Estepona was deemed ‘out of control’

Many of the local residents and holidaymakers told to leave their homes and spend the night in hotels or in their cars

Many of the local residents and holidaymakers told to leave their homes and spend the night in hotels or in their cars

A woman carries her cat as officials evacuate people near the seaside town of Estepona.  on the Costa del Sol

A woman carries her cat as officials evacuate people near the seaside town of Estepona. on the Costa del Sol

About 100 residents were housed in a nearby sports hall after being evacuated from their homes as wildfires threatened the settlements

About 100 residents were housed in a nearby sports hall after being evacuated from their homes as wildfires threatened the settlements

Tourists have been warned to stay away from helicopters that may be flying low to collect water from the sea and reservoirs to fight the fires.

At a critical point shortly after the alarm went off, flames came within 150 feet of a gas station on the AP-7 highway near Estepona.

The cause of the fire has yet to be confirmed, although well-placed sources are already pointing to possible arson.

Ms Crespo, confirming that it appears to have started in two different places in the municipality of Genalguacil, said: ‘It is very clear that the circumstances behind it are very striking.’

A spokesman for Malaga’s central government, Javier Salas, added: “The fact that the fire started in two different places suggests that it could have been intentional.”

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